Upstate Parent is getting answers to those health questions you’ve always wanted to ask. You ask us, and we ask local physicians and other experts to weigh in with some answers. Have a burning question? Let us know! This month’s questions are answered by several local experts. Remember that these answers are the opinions of these specific experts and not intended as medical advice. Always consult your personal doctor about your health.

Q: My child has a very short lunch break at school. I need advice for foods that pack a nutritional punch.

A: When packing a lunch for your child, try to include a protein source (lean meat, low-fat cheese, peanut butter, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, hummus) along with fruits or vegetables (grapes, pineapple, carrots, cucumbers) and whole grains (whole-grain bread, crackers, tortillas, pita bread). Try avoiding sugary drinks such as sodas, and instead pack water or low-fat milk. The combination of these items will give your child a variety of nutrients and keep her feeling full longer.

To satisfy your child’s sweet tooth, use low-fat yogurt with chopped fruit or a small handful of dark chocolate chips. Take advantage of foods that are kid friendly such as string cheese, veggies in low-fat ranch dressing or low-calorie popcorn. Try adding extra vegetables on sandwiches or in tortillas.

Make fun kabobs with a variety of fruits, vegetables and cheese squares. Bon appetit!

— Kristen Guenther, registered dietitian, Bon Secours St. Francis MedicalWeight Loss Program and WorkWell

Q: I experience heartburn almost daily. I don’t know if seeing a doctor would help more than taking over-the-counter medicines. Any suggestions for reducing my discomfort?

A: Heartburn occurs when stomach acid flows up inside the esophagus toward the throat. The esophagus normally closes once food passes into the stomach. Certain foods, behaviors and some medications can cause heartburn. Fatty meals, for example, can keep the end of the esophagus open too long. Citrus, coffee, smoking and stress can lead to overproduction of stomach acid. Tight belts, large meals and obesity can put too much pressure on the stomach.

If some of these causes apply to you, changing your diet and lifestyle should help. Over-the-counter medications help, but if your symptoms persist after several weeks, see your health-care provider.

Make an appointment soon if you have unexplained weight loss, difficulty swallowing or persisting abdominal pain with your heartburn.

— Dr. Juan D. Teruel, Bon Secours Express Care

Q: Breast-feeding is going very well with my 8-month-old. When should I consider weaning him and how do I make that easier for both of us?

A: Deciding when to wean a baby from breast-feeding can be a very personal choice. Age at weaning depends on both mom and baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend breast-feeding for at least the first year and then beyond a year if mom and baby desire. It is best to take a slow approach. Replacing one feeding every few days with a cup or bottle of milk will allow mom’s body and baby to get used to it. Babies will eventually self-wean and drop feedings on their own as they get older. For more information, contact St. Francis Eastside Lactation Services at 864-675-4215.

— Mandy Shaub, lactation consultant, St. Francis Eastside

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