Babies and children need body fat to be healthy, nourish their brains, and develop normally. But when does baby fat turn into a problem? At what point are our children overweight and at risk for health problems down the road? The reality can be hard for parents to determine, but with an estimated 20-30% of American children suffering from overweight issues, it is a crucial task for all parents. Read on to determine whether your child is at a healthy weight, and if not, what to do.
Assess Your Child’s BMI
Doctors have long relied on growth charts to determine whether children are developing appropriately, but some now turn to the Body Mass Index, or BMI, which uses height and weight to approximate the level of body fat a person has. BMI is used as a screening tool to identify possible weight problems for children. CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend the use of BMI to screen for overweight and obesity in children beginning at 2 years old.
To calculate your child’s BMI, visit your doctor or use an online tool like this one at www.kidshealth.org. The result will tell you whether your child has an appropriate level of body fat based on his height, age, and weight. A score ranging from the fifth percentile up to the 84th percentile is considered a healthy weight. If your child’s BMI is over the 85th percentile, schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss the results and determine what other factors should be considered.
Assess Your Child’s Caloric Intake
For a child who is growing and developing normally, it is usually unnecessary to count calories. Young children often self-regulate their own eating patterns and will not eat more than their bodies need or let themselves starve. However, knowing what the caloric needs are for children can be a helpful tool for determining whether your child is getting adequate nutrition. The USDA recommendations of calories for children can be found here. The next step is to ensure that the calories your child is taking in are of good quality.
Assess Your Child’s Nutrition
Children should not diet unless they are under the care of a doctor. Rather, children should eat just as their parents should, taking in a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, unrefined whole grains, and lean protein. Sugary snacks and beverages should be limited, as should trips to the drive-through. Important tools in helping to instill healthy eating habits for your child are to refrain from using food as a reward or bribe, avoid forcing children to eat all that is served to them, and to invite children to take an active role in selecting healthy food at the store and choosing menus for the week ahead. When children are involved in the process of becoming healthier, they will begin to adopt habits that will build the foundation for future health. Be a good example!
All children, regardless of weight, should be active every day. It’s not necessary to sign up for a membership at the local gym, however! Playing sports, walking to and from school with adult supervision, and even playing interactive video games can all help children develop an appreciation for being active. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Limit television and computer time and spend time outside each day with your children, using these tips as a guide. Read here for more family fitness ideas.
The health of our children has become a national priority. Don’t let your child become a statistic! Take steps today to determine your child’s health, calorie, and activity needs and if you are concerned about your child’s weight, meet with your doctor. It’s easy to set your child on a path to lifelong health, with you as their guide! Continue reading Is Your Child Overweight? How to Tell and What to Do