As a parent , you can do a lot to help your child reach and maintain a healthy weight. Staying active and consuming healthy foods and beverages are important for your child’s well-being. You can take an active role in helping your child—and your whole family—learn habits that may improve health.
How can I tell if my child is overweight?
Being able to tell whether a child is overweight is not always easy. Children grow at different rates and at different times. Also, the amount of a child’s body fat changes with age and differs between girls and boys.
One way to tell if your child is overweight is to calculate his or her body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of body weight relative to height. The BMI calculator uses a formula that produces a score often used to tell whether a person is underweight, a normal weight, overweight, or obese. The BMI of children is age- and sex-specific and known as the “BMI-for-age.”
BMI-for-age uses growth charts created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Doctors use these charts to track a child’s growth. The charts use a number called a percentile to show how your child’s BMI compares with the BMI of other children. The main BMI categories for children and teens are
- healthy weight: 5th to 84th percentile
- overweight: 85th to 94th percentile
- obese: 95th percentile or higher
Why should I be concerned?
You should be concerned if your child has extra weight because weighing too much may increase the chances that your child will develop health problems now or later in life.
In the short run, for example, he or she may have breathing problems or joint pain, making it hard to keep up with friends. Some children may develop health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Some children also may experience teasing, bullying, depression , or low self-esteem.
Children who are overweight are at higher risk of entering adulthood with too much weight. The chances of developing health problems such as heart disease and certain types of cancer are higher among adults with too much weight.
BMI is a screening tool and does not directly measure body fat or an individual child’s risk of health problems. If you are concerned about your child’s weight, talk with your child’s doctor or other health care professional. He or she can check your child’s overall health and growth over time and tell you if weight management may be helpful. Many children who are still growing in length don’t need to lose weight; they may need to decrease the amount of weight they gain while they grow taller. Don’t put your child on a weight-loss diet unless your child’s doctor tells you to.
How can I help my child develop healthy habits?
You can play an important role in helping your child build healthy eating, drinking, physical activity, and sleep habits. For instance, teach your child about balancing the amount of food and beverages he or she eats and drinks with his or her amount of daily physical activity. Take your child grocery shopping and let him or her choose healthy foods and drinks, and help plan and prepare healthy meals and snacks.
Here are some other ways to help your child develop healthy habits:
- Be a good role model. Consume healthy foods and drinks, and choose active pastimes. Children are good learners, and they often copy what they see.
- Talk with your child about what it means to be healthy and how to make healthy decisions.
- Discuss how physical activities and certain foods and drinks may help their bodies get strong and stay healthy.