Visit our foundation to give a gift.
View Locations Near Me
Main Campus – Hartford
Connecticut Children’s – Waterbury
Urgent Care – Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Danbury
Connecticut Children’s Surgery Center at Farmington
Specialty Care Center – Fairfield
Search All Locations
Find a doctor
Find A Doctor
Request an Appointment
Amenities and Services
Who’s Who on Care Team
Getting Ready for Surgery
What to Expect—Picture Stories
Pay a Bill
Understanding the Different Fees
Pricing Transparency and Estimates
Raytheon Technologies Family Resource Center
Family Advisory Council
Legal Advocacy: Benefits, Education, Housing
Electronic Health Records
Share Your Story
Pay a Bill
Login to MyChart
Clinical Support Services Referrals
About the Network
Join the Network
Graduate Medical Education
Continuing Medical Education
MOC/Practice Quality Improvement
Educating Practices in the Community (EPIC)
Learning & Performance
Meet our Physician Relations Team
Request Medical Records
Join our Referring Provider Advisory Board
View our Physician Callback Standards
Read & Subscribe to Medical News
Register for Email Updates
Update Your Practice Information
Refer a Patient
Find and Print Health Info
Health Information For Parents
Preventing kids from becoming overweight means making choices in the way your family eats and exercises, and how you spend time together. Helping kids lead healthy lifestyles begins with parents who lead by example.
Obesity puts kids at risk for medical problems that can affect their health now and in the future. These include serious conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol — all once considered adult diseases.
Overweight and obese kids are also at risk for:
Cardiovascular risk factors (including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes) that develop in childhood can lead to heart disease, heart failure, and stroke in adulthood. Preventing or treating overweight and obesity in kids may help protect them from these problems as they get older.
Obese kids also might have emotional issues to deal with (such as low self-esteem), and may be teased, bullied, or rejected by peers. Kids who are unhappy with their weight can be at risk for:
Body mass index (BMI) uses height and weight measurements to estimate a person’s body fat. But calculating BMI on your own can be complicated. An easier way is to use a BMI calculator.
On a standard BMI chart, kids ages 2 to 19 fall into one of four categories:
For kids younger than 2 years old, doctors use weight-for-length charts instead of BMI to determine how a baby’s weight compares with his or her length. Any child under 2 who falls at or above the 95th percentile may be considered overweight.
BMI is not a perfect measure of body fat and can be misleading in some cases. For example, a muscular person may have a high BMI without being overweight (extra muscle adds to body weight — but not fatness). Also, BMI might be hard to interpret during puberty when kids have periods of fast growth. Remember, BMI is usually a good indicator of body fat, but it’s not a direct measurement.
If you’re worried, take your child or teen to see the doctor. The doctor will ask about eating and activity habits and make suggestions on how to make positive changes. The doctor also may order blood tests to look for some of the medical problems associated with obesity.
Depending on your child’s BMI (or weight-for-length measurement) and health, the doctor may refer you to a registered dietitian or a weight management program.
A number of things contribute to a person becoming overweight. Diet habits, lack of exercise, genetics, or a combination of these can be involved. In some instances, too much weight gain may be due to an endocrine problem, genetic
, or some medicines.
Much of what we eat is quick and easy — from fat-filled fast food to processed and prepackaged meals. Daily schedules are so busy that there’s little time to make healthier meals or to squeeze in some exercise. Portion sizes, in the home and out, are too large.
Plus, modern life is sedentary. Kids spend more time playing with electronic devices than actively playing outside. Kids who watch TV more than 4 hours a day are more likely to be overweight compared with kids who watch 2 hours or less. And kids who have a TV in the bedroom also are more likely to be overweight.
Many kids don’t get enough physical activity. Older kids and teens should get 1 hour or more of moderate to vigorous exercise every day, including
and muscle- and bone-strengthening activities. Kids ages 2 to 5 years should play actively several times each day.
Genetics can play a role in what kids weigh. Our genes help determine body type and how the body stores and burns fat. But genes alone can’t explain the current obesity crisis. Because both genes and habits are passed down from one generation to the next, multiple members of a family may struggle with weight.
People in the same family tend to have similar eating patterns, levels of physical activity, and attitudes toward being overweight. A child’s chances of being overweight increase if one or both parent is overweight or obese.
The key to keeping kids of all ages at a healthy weight is taking a whole-family approach. Make healthy eating and exercise a family affair. Get your kids involved by letting them help you plan and prepare healthy meals. Take them along when you go grocery shopping. Teach them how to make good food choices.
Try to avoid these common traps:
Additional recommendations for kids of all ages:
Talk to kids about the importance of eating well and being active. Be a role model by eating well, exercising regularly, and building healthy habits into your own daily life. Make it a family affair that will become second nature for everyone.
“What’s the right weight for my child?” is one of the most common questions parents have. It seems like a simple one, but it’s not always easy to answer.
Doctors use body mass index (BMI) measurements to assess a child’s physical growth in relation to other kids the same age. Here’s how to calculate BMI and understand what the numbers mean.
Besides enjoying the health benefits of regular exercise, kids who are physically fit are better able to handle physical and emotional challenges.
Good nutrition and a balanced diet help kids grow up healthy. Here’s how to improve nutrition and encourage smart eating habits.
Waistlines have been expanding over the last few decades. Part of the problem is what we eat, but another is quantity. Are our plates simply piled too high?
Metabolic syndrome is a group of health problems that put kids at risk for heart disease and diabetes. With lifestyle changes, many kids improve their health and reduce their risk of disease.
When diet and exercise aren’t enough to help shed stubborn pounds, weight loss surgery may be an option for teens who are very overweight.
Most dieters regain the weight they lost by dieting when they go back to their old eating habits. Get our tips on the best ways to drop excess weight.
It’s normal to wish you could change something about your body. Find out more about these feelings in this article for kids.
A lot of people talk about fit kids, but how do you become one? Here are five rules to live by, if you want to eat right, be active, and keep a healthy weight.
A couple of pounds of extra body fat are not a health risk for most people. But when people are severely overweight, it can cause health problems.
If a person is struggling with extra weight, it can add to the emotional ups and downs of being a teen. Get some tips on coping here.
Lots of us don’t realize we’re eating too much because we’ve become so used to large portions. This article for teens helps you take control of your plate.
Being overweight has become a serious problem for many kids and adults. Find out what it means to be overweight in this article just for kids.
Metabolic syndrome is a signal that someone could be on the road to serious health problems. Find out more in this article for teens.
Has your doctor told you to lose weight? Get ideas on food, fitness, and staying motivated. We’ve also got weight management tools and recipes designed just for teens.
One of the biggest questions guys and girls have is whether they’re the right weight. Because the body is growing and changing so much during adolescence, it can be tough to answer this question.
Here are some practical, everyday tips on making exercise and healthy eating work for you instead of feeling like it’s the other way around.
Exercise can help keep a kid’s body fit and healthy. Learn more about what exercise can do for you in this article for kids.
One of the biggest questions guys and girls have as they grow and develop is whether they’re the right weight. One place to start is by learning about body mass index, or BMI.
We use the words “oveweight” and “obese” a lot, but they actually have medical meanings. Find out how doctors diagnose these conditions and what they mean for a person’s health.
You’ve probably heard about calories. Are they good or bad for you? Find out in this article for kids.
Doctors may do weight loss surgery if someone who is very overweight has tried but failed to lose weight and faces serious medical problems. Find out what makes teens eligible for bariatric surgery.
A healthy and positive body image means liking your body, appreciating it, and feeling grateful for its qualities and capabilities. Parents can help kids develop a healthy body image.
What you put in the grocery cart can affect your child’s health and attitude toward nutritious food.
TV, interactive video games, and the Internet can be excellent sources of education and entertainment, but too much plugged-in time can have unhealthy side effects.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved.
Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.