Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Dietitian shares tips to address childhood obesity with Promise staff

by Derrick Vander Waal

SIOUX CENTER, IOWA – The statistics are staggering when it comes to childhood obesity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s. In 2015-16, 1-in-5 school-age children had obesity, which is defined as having excess body fat.

Registered dietitian Colleen King presents information
about childhood obesity to Promise Community Health
Center clinical staff during a lunch-and-learn session.

That’s about 3 million children.

“That number just freaks me out. That’s a lot of kids,” registered dietitian Colleen King told clinical staff of Promise Community Health Center during a lunch-and-learn session today (Wednesday, Jan. 30.)

King, who is a contracted dietitian for Promise, said a primary cause of obesity is consuming more energy through food and beverages than the body uses for its normal functioning, growth and physical activity. Over time, that leads to weight gain. She said children and adolescents should maintain the right balance of enough food intake to support normal growth and development without going beyond to excess.

The MyPlate approach to portion sizes helps
people visualize how they should eat a
healthy, balanced diet for meals.

Other factors that contribute to obesity include genetics, lower body metabolism, community and neighborhood environmental factors, lack of sleep and lack of physical activity.

In addition to sharing her role as a dietitian and how she can support clinical staff, King shared some tools and tips that she uses with families.

Here is a small sampling:

Portion sizes

King said a big part of eating the right amount of food is visualizing it properly.

She likes to use the MyPlate image of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a proper, balanced diet with all five food groups. A plate is divided into four sections for protein, vegetables, fruits and grain, with dairy on the side.

“We get different nutrient packages from all the different food groups,” she said. “With some of these fad diets, if you exclude any one of these food groups, you’re going to be minus that nutrition. Portion size is the best practice in getting nice variety. Eating all good, colorful foods is really helpful.”

Registered Dietitian Colleen King likes to
show people how their hands can help
them visualize measurements and
proper portion sizes.

She also likes to help people visualize portion measurements by using their hands or other common items because many people don’t cook with or have measuring utensils handy, such as: a fist = a cup; inside of hand = half a cup; two thumb tips together = tablespoon; one thumb tip = teaspoon; a protein serving = size of deck of cards.

“The more visual we can be the better,” she said. “They can use their own hand as a guide.”

King said many adults tend to have a misconception about what children need for portion sizes.

“Their tummies are the size of their fist. They are pretty tiny,” she said. “So they don’t need a whole lot of food. If they are not going to eat their fruit or vegetable at their meal time because they’re full, then let’s put that into their snack time. Let’s spread out and have five or six eating times per day.”

Promise CHC clinical staff listen to a presentation
from registered dietitian Colleen King regarding
childhood obesity, including helpful tips.

King also likes to promote the 5-2-1-0 approach, which is advocated for by the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative and many other organizations, as a healthy daily lifestyle for children:
  • 5 fruits or vegetables per day;
  • 2 hours or less of screen time per day;
  • 1 hour of physical activity;
  • 0 sugary drinks.

“Spend Smart. Eat Smart.”

King said the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has great website resources – at – that it promotes as: “Spend Smart. Eat Smart.”

The resources include all types of tips and tools for planning meals, shopping for groceries and cooking foods – as well as recipes and videos.

Promise Community Health Center of Sioux Center is a Federally Qualified Health Center serving the northwest corner of Iowa. Promise provides medical, prenatal, dental, vision, behavioral health and family planning services. To learn more, visit and watch this video. To read more Promise news, visit