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What can I do if my child is overweight?

Posted by Be Well

What can I do if my child is overweight?
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Being overweight can lead to serious health problems for your child, such as joint pain, high blood pressure and diabetes.

The first step is to find out whether your child is medically overweight. You can't use standard BMI (body mass index) calculators because they're designed for adults, who are a different shape and have heavier bones than children.

If you're concerned about your child's weight, make an appointment with your doctor. They'll be able to plot your child's weight and height on a chart that takes into account their age. They will also take into account your child's individual history of growth and development and will discuss their activity levels, eating habits and whether there is a family history of weight problems.

There are some simple diet and lifestyle changes you can try if your child is overweight:

  • Avoid ready-prepared meals, as they contain hidden fats, sugar and salt.
  • Try and increase the amount of fruit and vegetables your child eats. They should have at least five portions a day.
  • Give your child fruit juice, squash and water instead of carbonated drinks or soft drinks.
  • Limit 'junk' food such as chips and sweets to occasional treats, and provide healthy snacks, such as a box of raisins or raw carrot sticks instead.
  • Encourage your child to find an exercise they enjoy, such as a team sport, dance class, or swimming lessons. They should be doing 60 minutes of physical activity a day. It doesn't have to be all in one go; it can be in chunks of 15-20 minutes throughout the day.
  • Instead of driving to school, try walking or cycling.

By getting the whole family to eat more healthily and take exercise together, your child won't feel singled out or resentful of these changes.

If these measures don't work and you're still worried about your child, talk to your doctor about any possible medical causes for weight gain. Most excess weight is caused by eating too much and not getting enough exercise. However, your doctor will advise you, and if necessary, carry out tests for conditions such as an under-active thyroid.

Unless your nurse or doctor has given you a special eating plan, don't put your child on a severe weight-loss diet.

NOTICE: The information provided on this site is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on Wellsphere. If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.
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