Do you ask yourself like many other parents whether your child is overweight or underweight? Not everyone is the same, but there are some basic guidelines for what is healthy in terms of children’s weight. With a balanced diet and daily physical activity your child will usually find their ideal weight, rather than having to aim for a particular weight goal. We’ve got some tips on assessing and positively influencing your child's weight.
Childhood BMI – The Benchmark
Individual Body Mass Index (BMI) identifies whether a person's weight is normal or not. However BMI is assessed differently for children than for adults because a child's age and sex must also be taken into consideration. The relationship between body size and weight as well as a child's age and sex is calculated and a healthy weight is determined. Normal weight for children lies between the 10th and 90th percentile. A child is overweight if their BMI is over the 90th percentile, severely overweight (obese) with a BMI that is over the 97th percentile and underweight if their BMI is under the 10th percentile.
Your paediatrician can determine whether your child's weight is normal or alternatively under the normal weight. Alternatively, you can use an online BMI calculator tool. Note that an adult BMI calculator is not suitable for children.
Overweight Children – An Increasing Problem
Overweight and obesity is on the rise among children due to incorrect eating habits and reduced physical activity. Unfortunately, a large number of overweight children will also become overweight adults. Being overweight is also closely linked to the development of chronic illnesses and a decreased quality of life. There are numerous scientific studies in this area.
If a child is overweight, it is mostly due to the fact that they consume more energy than they need. Therefore their weight increases. It is known that just 200 calories (kcal) over the average energy consumption per day for adults can be enough to increase weight by two to three kilograms within a year.
In addition to calorie-rich meals, in many cases excess weight is also linked to the sedentary habit of sitting in front of gaming consoles, TV or the computer during leisure time. These stationary pastimes, not only rob children of outdoor playtime, but also lead them to snack on high calorie snacks and sugary drinks.
How To Keep Your Child's Diet In Balance
A balanced family meal is generally based on variety, as well as the right choice of foods according to the dietary guidelines for Indians by the Indian Council for Medical Research. Exercise also plays a large role in the healthy development of children. That applies to all children – not only to those who tend to be overweight.
Chubby and overweight children should opt for filling but low-fat and low-calorie foods such as vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, lean meat and poultry as well as wholegrain foods. They should avoid and limit the intake of calorie-rich foods such as chips, other fried foods, chocolates or aerated drinks. These provide an extra portion of calories but very few nutrients often or provide empty calories. Fruits can be a good alternative to calorie-rich desserts because it tastes sweet but has a higher concentration of nutrients. Three to four portions of fruit per day are ideal, so an apple and banana, for example, or two small handfuls of cherries or berries and a pear. Plant oils such as rapeseed oil or soya oil provide useful essential fatty acids and vitamin E. However bear in mind: always use oil and other cooking fats in moderation.
Snacking Between Meals
If your child has a tendency towards being overweight, you should make sure that they do not eat too much between meals. It is best to have two small snacks per day – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Alternatively if your child is very slim or underweight, offer them more small snacks between meals. For the main meal, try appetite-stimulating and flavoursome snacks such as puddings, pancakes etc. In addition, high-energy and high-nutrient snacks are good for putting on weight. Desserts such as pudding and nuts, fruit juices and milkshakes also help considerably.
Set a Healthy Example
In addition to the diet options described, it is important that you do not close your eyes to the problem if your child is overweight or underweight. If you are worried, speak to your paediatrician so that they can regularly check your child's weight. As parents you should also be aware of your role as a role model and provide a good example through your dietary habits and exercise. You can positively influence your child by setting a good example of a healthy lifestyle. It is never too late to start, particularly if your child is overweight.
Get Over Exercise Roadblocks
Where exercise is concerned, help your child to overcome their shyness. Contrary to popular opinion overweight children are not lazy and idle. A recent long-term study has shown that it is more often the case that overweight people no longer have fun exercising because their weight holds them back. Ultimately it is a vicious circle – the wrong diet combined with unsuitable leisure activities leads to being overweight. Your child can only break this vicious circle with your help. Make sure, however, that you do not demand too much of your children. Put age-appropriate incentives in place and you will see your child have fun and enjoy your support and the activities you do together.