Is Your Child Overweight?

As a dietitian, have come across many parents who are worried about the weight of their children. It is understandable considering that obesity in the United States has increased considerably over the past few years. Here's what's healthy and what's not.


Many parents concerned about their child's weight to the point of restricting calories and fat beyond belief. When a parent is in this situation, or their child is, here are a few things them to try to keep in mind.

In most cases you don't have to worry about your child's weight if he is an infant. Some babies are naturally chubby while others are naturally thin. At this age, babies are biological eaters. This means that they eat when they need to eat. If they don't need any more food they usually will stop eating.

Along with this, babies go through sprits. Many times, a baby will eat and gain some chub for a few weeks, then in the next few weeks the baby will grow in height and actually appear to lose some of that fat because he will stay about the same weight. This is very common and most babies go through stages like this. Restricting calories at this point can hamper the growth of your baby.

A lot of babies are chubby because they are inactive. In most cases, once a baby begins to crawl and walk they lose that baby fat. Most studies have see state there is no link between a chubby baby and an obese adult.

Watch how your baby plots on the growth charts. If you have never seen one of these, ask your doctor to show you one. Some babies are naturally heavier than others. If your baby is always at the 95th percentile, don't worry about it. The only time you may become concerned is if there are big jumps or drops in where your baby plots. For instance, if your baby is at the 50th percentile at six months and then is well above the 95th percentile at eight months. If this happens, you may just have introduced too many solids to quickly.

If you are concerned about your child's weight and she is older than an infant, here are a few things for patients:

It could it be genetic

A child can be heavier than the average and still be healthy. Your family may just be on the heavier side of normal. If this is true, having your child fight heredity could do more harm than good. You could be setting her up to a lifetime of yo-yo dieting that usually ends in failure and being heavier than she would have originally had been.

Look to see how many "empty" calories your child is eating

If he is overweight, do not try to make your child take smaller portions at meals, just watch to see what choices you are making for your child. Is dinner usually hot dogs and macaroni and cheese? If so, find something lower in fat to prepare, and most of the time it will be lower in calories as well.

How much soda and Kool Aid does he drink during the day?

If it is more than one glass, offer milk or water instead. Most people do not drink enough of either of these two products. Once your child is over two years of age, offer fat free milk. By reducing the high fat and empty foods and offering high nutrition and lower fat foods you will reduce the amount of calories your child consumes. Along with that, you will be setting your child up with a taste for healthier foods.

Besides just changing the types of foods offered, a diet like adults use should not be used on children. You should not force your child to go hungry on a typical diet, like you as an adult would. With that you are increasing the chances that your child will actually be obese or develop an eating disorder later on.

Be an example for your child. It is not fair if your force your child to eat pretzels and juice bars as snacks while you eat Ben and Jerry's and potato chips. Change what you are doing and it will be easier for your child to adjust.

If your child is overweight, do not throw it up in the child's face. This can cause him or her to have lower self-esteem. In society today, over weight seems to go along with failure in a lot of people's mind. Don't let your child feel like a failure.

In most cases, do not focus on weight loss. If your child is overweight, try to slow down weight gain and let height catch up. Children grow very quickly and if you are trying to get them to lose pounds they may not be getting enough nutrients needed to grow the way they should. Just work on the child staying around the same weight for a while and let the height catch up. This should be your goal.

Children do need fat. Today, many people tend to cut fat out of their diets for they think all fat is evil. Too much fat can hurt you, but you do need some fat for your body to work properly. Some hormones are produced from fat, and without fat the hormones will not be produced. Also, some vitamins need you to eat fat so the can be digested.

Finally, increase activity. Over the past few years, studies have shown that calories consumed have actually decreased. With that, obesity had continued to rise. Why? Inactivity. Many kids come home and watch TV, sit down in front of the computer, or play a video game. This has caused America's children to gain weight at a rate that was unexpected. Shut the TV off. Go outside and play ball with your kids. Go for walks with your children. Keep them active. This is the healthiest way to deal with an overweight child. Along with this, the more your child does the more he/she will be able to eat and the less likely it will be that he or she will be hungry.

As with anything, talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your child's weight. You may think your child is overweight, when in reality your child is just healthy!

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