How to Maintain a Healthy Weight for Children

how to maintain a healthy weight

One in five children and adolescents in the United States suffer from childhood obesity. In 2017-2020, there were 14.7 million obese people aged 2-19, a prevalence of 19.7%. These trends do not look like they will slow down anytime soon. The numbers continue to rise due to poor eating habits, lack of exercise, and other contributing factors.

As a parent of young children, you know how necessary fitness and nutrition are for their long-term health. This National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, we’re highlighting the different ways to maintain a healthy weight for children.


What Is a Healthy Weight for Children?

Proper weight maintenance is healthy for any body regardless of age. But what exactly is a healthy weight for children? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have set guidelines for healthy weight in children.

According to them, one way to determine if your child is at a healthy weight is to use age-appropriate body mass index (BMI) charts. BMI for children and adolescents is an indicator of body fat dependent on height and weight that applies to boys and girls ages 2 through 19 years old.

You can calculate their BMI by dividing their weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared. This formula can help parents assess whether a child’s weight is appropriate for age and height. For your basis, see the BMI Charts or use the BMI calculator for easier calculation.

The CDC and AAP recommend the following ranges for children:

  • Underweight = below 5th percentile
  • Normal Weight = 5th percentile to 85th percentile
  • Overweight = 85th percentile to 95th percentile
  • Obese = above 95th percentile

You may be able to use the results to determine whether your child needs to lose weight or not. Still, the best way to determine whether your child is at a healthy weight is to consult a registered dietitian and a pediatrician. Your child’s doctor will take into account not only their height, weight, and age but other factors that may affect their weight. They may also measure your child’s waist circumference and check genetics and underlying conditions. 


Causes and Negative Consequences of Childhood Obesity

The causes of childhood obesity encompass a wide range of factors. Some of these are:

  • Genetics — Children with obese parents are more likely to become obese themselves.
  • Environment — Children who live in poverty or whose parents cannot afford healthy food may eat fast food, which is high in calories and fat.
  • Inactivity — When children spend more time watching TV or playing video games than outside running and playing, their bodies store fat rather than burning it off through exercise.
  • Poor Eating Habits – Over-sized portions encourage overeating and make it harder for people to stop eating once they’ve had enough.
  • Medical Conditions and MedicationsCushing’s disease and other illnesses can increase their weight or cause obesity. Additionally, it is possible to gain weight when taking certain drugs, such as antidepressants and steroids.


Negative Consequences

Overweight or obese children become two to six times more likely to be overweight adults. This situation increases the chance of long-term, chronic disease, and premature death, which can seriously affect them, your family, and even the healthcare system.

Obesity can lead to a lot of severe health problems, including:  

  • type 2 diabetes
  • heart disease
  • breathing problems
  • high blood pressure

These chronic conditions can lead to lifelong health problems like stroke, cancer, and arthritis. In addition, children who are overweight or obese may have trouble fitting into activities with their peers. They may also be teased about their appearance or experience social isolation because of their weight status. This situation can lead to depression or low self-esteem now and later in life.


7 Ways to Keep Your Child at a Healthy Weight

Since childhood obesity can lead to serious long-term health problems, parents should be responsible for educating their children. Teach them about the risks associated with being overweight and how to adopt a healthy lifestyle for kids. 

For parents to help their child maintain a healthy weight, here are some tips you can do at home 

  1. Get active together
  2. Offer healthy snack options
  3. Limit juice, soda, and fruit drinks
  4. Ensure your child gets plenty of sleep
  5. Serve them a balanced diet
  6. Emphasize portion control
  7. Set a good example


  • Get Active Together

Regular exercise helps kids burn calories and improves their overall fitness levels — not to mention that it’s a wonderful opportunity for you and your child to spend quality time together. Encourage your child to participate in activities such as biking, swimming, or playing tag while you’re outside or take walks around the neighborhood when possible. In addition, limit their time spent watching TV, playing video games, or using other electronic devices. Taking part in these sedentary activities can contribute to more weight gain.


  • Offer Healthy Snack Options

You should limit the number of empty calories like fried foods, sweets and high-calorie processed snacks. Rather, you should have plenty of nutritious snacks on hand. Choose low-calorie, nutrient-rich options such as fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins. Healthy snacks can include:

  • Fresh fruit and vegetable skewers
  • Whole-grain crackers and pretzels
  • Mini whole wheat chicken or turkey sandwiches
  • Peanut butter on whole-wheat bread or crackers
  • String cheese or yogurt
  • Low-fat cheese sticks or cubes
  • Whole-grain cereal with low-fat or skim milk


  • Limit Juice, Soda, and Fruit Drinks

Don’t give your child soda, juice, or sweetened drinks such as sports drinks or iced tea with added sugar. Sugary beverages like these are high in calories and have little nutritional value. It’s best to limit juice consumption or ensure it is 100 percent fruit juice (with no added sugars). Better yet, offer water and low-fat milk instead. 


  • Ensure Your Child Gets Plenty of Sleep

Children need about 10 hours of sleep each night for good health and brain function. Sleep facilitates the body’s recovery from the day’s activities and regulates hormone production, blood pressure, and metabolism. Meanwhile, sleep deprivation can lead to increased hunger and energy deficiency, thus resulting in overeating and little exercise.


  • Serve Them a Balanced Diet

The key to keeping your child at a healthy weight is making sure they eat a variety of healthy foods, which include:

  • fruits
  • low-fat dairy products 
  • vegetables
  • whole grains
  • lean meats
  • healthy fats

Also, add plenty of fiber to their diet. Fiber helps keep your child feeling full for longer and helps prevent constipation. Try adding more beans and whole grains to meals or snacks. If you have questions about balanced diets, search “pediatrician near me” and talk to your local pediatrician. 


  • Emphasize Portion Control

Focus on portion control when choosing meals for your child. Count servings from each food group (vegetables, fruits, grains, and protein). Make sure your child eats from each group every day, so they get enough nutrients from all sources.


  • Set a Good Example

Inactivity and poor eating habits are usually learned behaviors from family members. Practice what you preach! As a parent, if you intend to help your child maintain a healthy weight, you must also make healthy choices for yourself. You need to make sure you stay active, get enough sleep, and eat a healthy diet too.


Start Them on the Path to Healthy Living!

Being able to keep your child in a healthy weight range is an important part of their overall health. The best way to find out what’s suitable for your child is to talk with your child’s pediatrician or health care provider. If you are seeking a “Pediatrician in Fresno California” look no future! At Children’s Medical Centers of Fresno, our pediatrics team can help you figure out what a healthy weight is for them and how to get there. For consultations, call (559) 455-1500, or you may also book an appointment online