'GMA' Q and A: Ask Joan Lunden

ByABC News via logo

May 3, 2004 -- Joan Lunden brightened the days of Good Morning America viewers for 17 years.

The former morning show anchor talked about her new book, Growing Up Healthy: Protecting Your Child From Diseases Now Through Adulthood, on GMA Monday. The book is chock full of information she's learned on the job — as a mother of five — over the years.

Read an Excerpt

Lunden also answered questions for an online Q & A on ABCNEWS.com.

Q: How do you help an overweight child lose weight without making them miserable, because all of his friends are eating what they want? — Gina, Hackettstown, NJ

A: It's tough to tackle the issue of a child's weight. You're to be commended for addressing the problem. The important thing to do in this situation is to sit down with your child and explain that he is overweight. Be very supportive and try not to be judgmental. Make it clear to him that by making some simple changes — cutting back on calories and exercising more — he can trim down and become healthier.

That doesn't mean doing without his favorite foods or not joining his friends at fast food places. It just means becoming informed and leaning to make better choices, like ordering the single burger instead of the double, substituting a salad for fries, and choosing water or juice over the milkshake. When it comes to diet and exercise, small changes can add up to big benefits.

Ironically, while peer pressure may be causing your child to make poor choices in some situations, your son's peers may also be making fun of him for being overweight. Overweight children and adults are one of the most discriminated against groups in the US. Explain this to your child, and help him see that better eating habits-eating a variety of healthy foods, making sure that trips to the fast food joint are considered a treat, and not the norm-are essential to his physical healthy and emotional well-being.

Q: What's the most important life lesson you've learned since leaving Good Morning America? — Emily, Long Beach Calif

A: My most important life lesson has been the realization that success in life is about being able to reinvent yourself. I believe that, for all of us, the future is determined by the choices we make. The future is in our own hands.

Q: On Good Morning America you spoke of an ingredient in pop that takes away calcium I believe. What was that ingredient? My kids don't drink pop, but I, at 34, drink diet soda and I wondered if that was taking away calcium.— Kathleen, Owosso Michigan

A: Phosphate or phosphorus inhibits the absorption of calcium in our bloodstream. Diet cola does contain phosphate and will limit amount of calcium that your body is able to absorb, so it's a good idea to limit the amount of cola that you drink. Not all soda contains phosphorus, however. So look on the label and avoid those soft drinks that list phosphate, phosphorus, or phosphoric acid among their ingredients.

Q: What are the long-term effects of protein deficiency in children? About a year ago, a nutritionist diagnosed my 9-year-old son with low protein based on his blood work. Since that time, we have done our best to increase his protein intake. Being a typical kid, however, he is often not interested in the foods that I think he should be eating. I know that he is still not getting the proper amount of protein in his diet. Can you tell me how this might affect him in the long run? — Jeanie, Deerfield, Illinois

A: A protein deficiency is very rare in the United States-it's much more of a third-world problem, although it does also occur in areas of great poverty. Meat, poultry, eggs, cheese, milk, and other dairy products are such a good source of protein that, in general, most children and adults in the U.S. actually eat more protein than required. Dr. Winick advises that a doctor should be reading your child's blood-work to determine whether or not he has a dietary-protein deficiency, and suggests you and your son to visit his pediatrician.

Q: I run a daycare in my home. I have a child who is almost 2-years-old and only weighs 22 lbs. His mother refuses to give him anything with more than 10 grams of sugar to eat or drink. She said she doesn't want him to grow up and be a picky eater. He sleeps most of the day. Lack of energy I am guessing. He eats 5 to 6 fruits a day and moves his bowels at least 4 or 5 times a day. How healthy is this diet? What can I do? — Angela Bergman, Lebanon PA

A: The fact that this child's mother is trying to limit her child's sugar intake is a good thing. Sugar contains calories but no other nutrients-what we call empty calories. Eating fruit four to five times a day is also positive, so long as the child is eating other foods. However, children also need complex carbohydrates (such as those found in rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes and bread), as well as protein, and fat. Often parents concerned about the growing obesity epidemic limit their child's intake of fats, but it's especially important for a child of two to consume between 30 to 35 percent of his calories from fat. It's important for growing children to eat a variety of foods. If you are concerned about this child's diet, you may want to discuss it further with his mother.

Q: Where can i buy this book? — Thora, Richardson, TX

A: "Growing Up Healthy" is available wherever books are sold. If you have difficulties finding the book at your local bookstore, I suggest you try an online bookseller such as Amazon.com or Barnesandnoble.com.

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