A family cut out from paper

Being overweight is not just something that happens to adults – it can be a problem for kids too.

The good news is that making small changes to what you give your child to eat, and how you encourage them to do physical activity, can prevent them from becoming overweight. By doing this you’re also setting them up with habits that will last a lifetime, and helping them grow into healthy adults.

Good nutrition during childhood is essential for normal growth, development, current health and future health.

Fat cells developed in childhood remain into adult life – which makes it easier to put on weight. This is why overweight children often grow up to be overweight adults.

However, if children eat healthy foods and do enough physical activity, they will grow into their weight without increasing fat cells, setting them up for a healthier future.

Should I be worried about my child’s weight?

Children grow at different rates and sometimes it’s impossible to tell if a child is a healthy weight just by looking at them.

Normal growth during childhood and adolescence involves weight gain and an increase in body size. Too little or too much food, or an imbalance of nutrients over a period of time, can alter this physical growth.

It's hard to know exactly what your children should be eating and how much activity they should be doing to stay healthy. Find out more through the Government's practical guidelines for a healthy child.

If your child experiences more than two of the symptoms on this checklist, he or she may be overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. Talk to your child’s GP for a health and weight assessment, and to get advice on helping your children live a healthier lifestyle.

Checklist:

  • Wears clothes that are two sizes too big for his/her age
  • Has rolls or skin folds around waist
  • Snores when asleep
  • Mentions getting teased about weight
  • Gets very puffed or red in the face after running for 10 minutes continuously
  • Doesn't participate in games at school or doesn't want to go out with other children
  • Eats adult size food portions of high fat or high sugar foods
  • Is always hungry or asking for high fat or high sugar foods - although their appetite may change when they are experiencing growth spurts
  • Doesn't regularly eat a high fibre breakfast
  • Skips meals regularly
  • Eats more than two serves of 'extra' foods each day, such as sugary drinks, cakes, muffins, pies, biscuits or high sugar muesli bars
  • Drinks sugary cordial or soft drink more than three times a week
  • Eats high fat foods such as pies, pasties, sausage rolls, chips or hot chips more than three times a week
  • Eats high sugar foods such as muffins, cakes, biscuits most days (or more than three days a week)
  • Has take-away or fast-food meals more than once a week
  • Watches TV/video games for more than two hours each day

It's important to remember that if you are worried about your child's weight, a health professional is best placed to assess your child's weight and lifestyle, and  guide you on lifestyle changes.