How to identify and tackle a weight problem in children is a delicate and sensitive issue for many parents.
However, the earlier any child weight issues are identified the better.
We know that carrying excess weight in childhood can have negative effects on a child’s short- and long-term health, continuing into adulthood.
It can be difficult to know if your child is carrying excess weight, and you can’t always tell just by looking at them. The best way to determine if a child has a weight problem is to track their weight over time on a weight-for-height chart that is age and sex-appropriate. This can be done by school health nurses, GPs, or using charts available online (from sites such as the World Health Organisation).
Should a child be identified as overweight, it’s not necessary to make them lose weight.
Rather, we recommend keeping the child’s weight stable as they grow in height, allowing them to achieve a healthy weight as they grow.
Parents can help by being good role models in terms of their own physical activity, nutrition and their attitude towards their own weight. Providing a supportive, healthy environment at home can have a positive impact on a child’s weight.
There are many ways to help promote a healthy lifestyle within your family:
n Have meals together as a family;
n Provide healthy snacks and foods (nutrient-dense foods such as fruit and vegetables);
n Involve children in food preparation;
n Encourage active play in children;
n Reduce the amount of time children spend being inactive (e.g. TV, electronic games);
n Encourage children to drink water rather than juices, fizzy drinks or energy drinks.
To find out more about the Origins Project, including the work we’re doing in the area of nutrition and healthy weight, visit www.|originsproject.telethonkids.org.au.
Dr Lisa Gibson, a research psychologist with Telethon Kids Institute, is part of the Origins Project.
The Origins Project, a collaboration led by the Telethon Kids Institute and Joondalup Health Campus, is a long-term study into the health and development of 10,000 children expected to be born at Joondalup Health Campus over the next few years.
In this regular series, Community News features an Origins researcher explaining the project’s research or health issues that matter to parents and families.