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Is My Child Overweight?

young female teen sits at kitchen table doing homework

About 1 out of every 3 children in the US is overweight or obese. Because kids grow and mature on different schedules and have different body types, it’s not always easy to tell whether they’re at a healthy weight.

One good indicator is a body mass index (BMI) calculator, which uses height and weight measurements to estimate how much body fat a person has. The childhood growth charts you may receive at doctor visits are based on BMI. But these are not always accurate during periods of rapid growth, such as puberty. If you’re worried about your child’s weight, you should discuss it with their doctor.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity during childhood raises the risk for health problems including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and asthma. Children with obesity are also more likely to become adults with obesity, which raises the risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and many types of cancer.

How parents can help

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health looked at data of more than 24,000 children of women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study II. They found that children of mothers who followed 5 healthy habits were 75% less likely to become obese than children of mothers who followed none of the 5 habits. The risk of obesity was 82% lower when both mother and child followed these habits:

A good way to keep kids of all sizes and ages at a healthy weight is to get the whole family involved in healthy eating and exercise. Prepare more meals at home, emphasizing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Eat less take-out, less red meat, and less processed foods, such as hot dogs. Make sure your child gets at least 1 hour of moderate- or vigorous-intensity activity each day, with vigorous activity on at least 3 days each week.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Association between maternal adherence to healthy lifestyle practices and risk of obesity in offspring: results from two prospective cohort studies of mother-child pairs in the United States. Published July 4, 2018, in BMJ. First author Klodian Dhana, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Boston.