If you've learned that your child is overweight, there are simple steps you can take, with support if you want it, to help your child move towards a healthy weight.
Your child's weight matters, because it can affect their health now and in the future. Overweight children are more likely to grow up into overweight adults, who face all the health risks that carrying excess weight can bring.
If your child is overweight, it's time to take action.
The good news is that there are steps you can take that will set your child on the road to a healthy weight.
If your child is very overweight, or if they have other health conditions, it's a good idea to ask for support. Your doctor can help.
Children are growing, so it's usually not necessary for overweight children to lose weight. Instead, it is usually better that the child maintains their current weight while they continue to grow in height. This will depend on how overweight your child is and how old they are, as well as other factors.
If you're unsure about this or other issues, ask for advice from your doctor.
Change as a family
A healthy, balanced diet and plenty of physical activity will lead to a healthy weight for your child.
Making changes to your family's lifestyle can make a real difference to your child's weight. These changes work best, and are easiest, when the whole family joins in.
Regular meals, eaten together and without distractions (such as TV) are a great first step towards a healthier diet. Cooking yourself rather than relying on ready-made meals can help you to lower the fat and sugar content in your meals.
If your family eats snacks that are high in fat or sugar, such as chocolate, biscuits, sweets and soft drinks, aim to replace these with healthier alternatives such as fruit.
Physical activity is also an important part of achieving a healthy weight. The amount of physical activity that is recommended for children depends on age, and children who are overweight may need to do more than the recommended amount in order to lose weight.
Aim to reduce the amount of time your child spends on inactive hobbies, such as watching television and playing electronic indoor games.
Current Australian recommendations for ‘screen time’ are:
- Children younger than 2 years of age should not spend any time watching television or using other electronic media (DVDs, computer and other electronic games).
- For Children 2 to 5 years of age, sitting and watching television and the use of other electronic media should be limited to less than 1 hour per day.
- Infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers (all children birth to 5 years) should not be kept inactive for more than 1 hour at a time, with the exception of sleeping.
It's also important to help your child develop a positive body image and good self-esteem. Habits in childhood will remain as they grow into adults, so praise them when they try healthier foods or when they swap a sedentary activity for an active one.
Check out some great ideas and support to help your family get on track to a more healthy lifestyle and how to do healthy food swaps.
Your child at school
The school that your child attends should support you in helping your child to achieve a healthy weight.
All schools should provide opportunities for physical activity and healthy food. Some schools will also help to ensure that your child does not bring unhealthy foods to school, by working with parents to set guidelines on packed lunches.
If your child is overweight, you can talk to your child's teachers about your plans to help your child achieve a healthy weight, and how the school can support this.
If you feel uncertain about helping your child to achieve a healthy weight, or the changes you've made don't seem to be helping, then seek support.
Your doctor can assess your child's weight and provide further advice on lifestyle changes, or refer you to other health professionals such as a:
You can get further information and support on childhood obesity from the websites below:
Last reviewed: September 2016