Children, young people and families
Overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults
Children become overweight when they get more energy from food and drink than they use through doing physical activities. Making changes to their diet and activity levels can help them reach a healthy weight.
Is my child an unhealthy weight?
As babies, children are weighed regularly but as they grow and develop it can be hard to know if children are a healthy weight. Children between the ages of 2 and 18 can be measured by using their BMI, that is their Body Mass Index. This tells us if their weight is right for their height and the results are given as a centile or percentile.
The centile number shows how their BMI compares with other children of the same age and sex as a percentage. For example, a boy in the 75th centile is heavier than 75 out of 100 other boys his age.
Here’s what to look out for:
- Underweight – On the 2nd centile or below
- Healthy weight – Between 2nd and 91st centiles
- Overweight – 91st centile or above
- Very overweight – 98th centile or above
It is recommended you accurately measure your child’s height and weight every three months and use the healthy weight calculator to find out how your child is developing. It’s a good idea to keep track so that you can discuss them with your GP or health professional if needed.
Health risks of children being overweight
The risks for children if they are overweight are not dissimilar to adults.
They are at risk of developing high cholesterol, high blood pressure, pre diabetes, bone, and joint problems as well as breathing difficulties to name a few.
Overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults which in turn puts them at risk of ill health and even premature death.
The impacts are not just physical. There are emotional and behavioural impacts too. Children who are overweight are more likely to be stigmatised and bullied because of their weight which leads to low self-esteem and poor mental wellbeing.
We also see a higher rate of school absence which impacts on attainment.
Advice for parents
As a parent, if you are concerned the first thing you need to do is to measure your child’s BMI (see the section above).
Knowledge is power and it will help you to make the changes you need.
If your child is overweight, it’s recommended that you…
Get active. Find an activity they enjoy and make it part of both your routines.
Use rewards and stickers. Celebrate the wins.
Aim to give them a healthy, balanced diet that includes fruit, veggies, starchy foods, proteins and dairy (or dairy alternatives). Keep the sugary treats to an occasional treat.
Set realistic targets. It’s not a race, better to get there and finish than crash and burn.
Encourage a healthy attitude to eating. You can be a good role model; children learn what they see. So, get active and eat healthily all together.
Help them get enough sleep. A regular bedtime routine is important. Remove digital screens, mobiles, or tablets for example, from their room at night. Ideally an hour or two before bed too.
Keep portion sizes small. They are kids and their empty stomach is no bigger than their own clenched fist. Use smaller plates to help.
Ditch the fizzy sugary drinks. Swap them for water, squash, cordial or milk – they’ll get calcium and all sorts of other nutrients too.
Above all if you need it reach out for support.
Check out the support for my family and child to find out more.
Support for my family and child
There is lots of help, advice, and support to help you make the right decisions and choices.
A good place to start is the Better Health, Healthier Families NHS website. It is full of food facts, recipes, and activities to get the whole family moving.
Try the sugar calculator to see just how many cubes of sugar are hidden in those little treats or investigate healthier food swaps.
Not to mention the range of active game ideas with indoor activities for rainy days and the 10-minute shake-up game selection.
Need help to manage your weight?
Get support local to you
If you wish to make a referral into the Feel Good Suffolk service, your Feel Good Suffolk Advisor can support you to access information contained on this website or community assistance local to you.
They can also advise you on the eligibility criteria for more intensive levels of support around managing a healthy weight, stopping smoking and being more active.