It depends. Children and teens may go through cycles. For example, they may eat more and gain a bit of extra weight right before a growth spurt in height. This type of weight gain usually passes quickly as the child continues to grow.
If you are concerned that your child may have an eating problem, observe his or her behavior and talk with your family doctor. Ask yourself the questions below. They can be signs of a problem.
As a parent or primary caregiver, you have a lot of power. Children and teens are much easier to influence than adults. Your child will follow your example, so strive to be a good role model. Teach your child how to eat healthy foods and stay active. Your guidance is important even for teens who may prepare their own snacks and meals and plan their own activities. Here are a few tips:
Physical activity has many other benefits, including the following:
Regular exercise can also help prevent serious health problems in the future that are associated with overweight and obesity, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, sleep apnea and some types of cancer.
Children 2 years of age and older need at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. This doesn’t have to be done all at one time. Your child just needs to be active throughout the day, even if he or she gets exercise in shorter bouts of activity.
Start by limiting screen time for the whole family. Screen time includes watching television or DVDs, playing video or computer games and surfing the Internet. These are sedentary activities, meaning they usually are done while sitting or standing still. Try to limit your child’s total screen time to no more than 1 to 2 hours each day. And remember – you’re a role model for your child. Set a good example by limiting your screen time too.
Also, encourage and promote physical activity. Find something your child likes, such as participating in team sports, dancing, playing outdoors or volunteering.
No, not without first talking to your family doctor. Children need to take in enough calories and nutrients to grow into healthy teens and adults. And because children grow at different rates, sometimes it’s hard to tell if a child really has a problem with weight. Talk to your family doctor if you have concerns about your child or teen’s weight.
This content was developed with general underwriting support from The Coca-Cola Company.
A systems-oriented multilevel framework for addressing obesity in the 21st century by Huang TT, Drewnowski A, Kumanyika SK, Glass TA (Prev Chronic Dis 2009;6(3):A82 , http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2009/jul/09_0013.htm)
American Heart Association. Is obesity an issue in your house?. Accessed January 14, 2011
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tips for Parents—Ideas to Help Children Maintain a Healthy Weight. Accessed January 14, 2011
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff