Overweight child and Childhood obesity
Fitterfly - Team Nutrition
- Posted On August 13, 2019
Traditional Indian wisdom identifies thin and lean kids as weak while plump and chubby kids as healthy. Modern medicine has a different opinion. You may have been told by your doctor that your child is overweight. You are not alone as obesity in children is spreading like an epidemic. Let’s find out what does this mean and what can you do?
How can I determine if my child is overweight?
Being able to tell if a child is overweight is tricky as all children grow at different rates and at different times. Also, the growth pattern differs between boys and girls. Best person to determine if your child is overweight is your doctor and most trusted way is by calculating BMI [Body Mass Index]. BMI takes both height and weight in consideration according to age and gender. Doctors use ‘BMI for age’ chart to determine your child’s growth and compare it with other kids in same age group. 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?
But is it really a cause of worry?
Yes. Overweight children often grow up to become overweight adults and this makes ‘unhealthy weight’ one of the most important risk factors for health problems now or later in life. Being overweight may negatively affect the self-esteem and confidence level as well as cause breathing problems or joint pain at young age. Such children are also more prone to develop a number of diseases including - Type 2 Diabetes, eating disorders such as bulimia or food addiction or binge eating, Liver problems, High Blood Pressure, High cholesterol, Heart problems, Sleep apnea and Breathing disorders.
How to help my overweight child lose weight?
There is a lot you can do to help your child have healthier weight – make good food choices at home, help your child develop healthy eating habits, encourage them to become more physically active.
How to make healthy food choices?
- Consider using reduced fat dairy products such as toned milk.
- Limit the amounts of dairy products: Toddlers require 2 servings whereas kids over 8–9 years of age require 3 servings of dairy per day. One serving equals to 250ml of milk or 200gms of yogurt or 2 slices of cheese.
- Buy only healthy food products: Read ingredient list before buying, Avoid anything that mentions high percentage of high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, or glucose, saturated and trans-fat.
- Diets for overweight children should essentially have at least 5 servings of fresh vegetables and fruit instead of packed snack as biscuits, wafers, cookies.
- Make sure children only drink water when thirsty. Combined total of other juices, smoothies and sugary drinks should not be more than 150ml per day – equivalent of a small glass.
- Serve child sized portions. Put less amount of food in your child’s plate, let them ask for more if still hungry.
- Keep healthy snacks like - puffed rice, popcorn, and fruits like - apples and berries in easily accessible areas.
- Avoid buying high calorie stuff like chips, cookies and chocolate or keep them out of sight.
- Never use food as a means to punish, reward or cheer your child.
How to help my child develop healthy eating habits?
- Encourage your child to chew food slowly.
- Ask him/her to put spoon or fork down in between bites.
- Let your child decide if they have had enough food. Don’t force feed or scold if there is some food left in the plate.
- Avoid eating in front of television, computer, mobile phone or any other electronic device.
- Encourage your child to choose healthy. Steamed Idli over Medu wada, Hummus and pita bread over pizza and pasta.
Apart from food are there any other things I should focus on?
- Children need to be physically active for at least 60 minutes every day. Help your child find an activity that he/she enjoys – free play outdoors, solo or team sport, swimming or dancing.
- You can also plan fun activities like going cycling together.
- Limit TV and other screen time to not more than two hours a day for children five years and older, one hour per day for children between two to five years and no television for children younger than 2.
- Make sure your child gets enough sleep. Following is recommended amount of sleep in hours according to age.
|Infants: 3 to 11 months||14 to 15 hours (includes two naps)|
|Toddlers: 1 to 3 years||12 to 14 hours (includes one nap)|
|Pre-schoolers: 3 to 5 years||11 to 13 hours (includes one nap)|
|School-age children: 5 to 10 years||10 to 11 hours|
|Teens: 10 to 17 years||8½ to 9¼ hours|
Perhaps the most important thing is to act as a good role model. Make sure your child sees you eating healthy foods, being physically active and taking care of your health.
It is important to prevent the children becoming overweight and if they are, to make efforts to reverse the condition before they become adults.
Follow your doctor’s advice and reach out to a nutritionist and lifestyle coach who can recommend a healthy overweight child diet plan for healthy eating and physical activity.