Chubby cheeks, chubby hands, chubby belly: They make babies so huggable. But that pudgy appeal can quickly become a health concern.
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“Children should start thinning out between ages 2 and 5,” says Sara Lappé, MD, pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children’s. “Your child will look his thinnest about the time he starts Kindergarten.”
It’s hard to eyeball a healthy weight, though. That’s why all kids should see their doctor regularly, to make sure their body mass index (BMI) is within a healthy range (between the 5th and 85th percentile).
A growing problem
Children at or above the 85th percentile are overweight. Those at or above the 95th percentile are obese. And that can bring on a bundle of ills — as if not keeping up with other kids on the playground weren’t hurtful enough:
- High blood pressure and/or cholesterol
- Fatty liver disease
- Worsened asthma
- Sleep disturbances, including snoring and sleep apnea, which has been linked to behavior problems
Shockingly, about 17 percent of U.S. kids between ages 2 and 19 are obese. That number has nearly tripled since 1980.
You are the solution
To help your child maintain a healthy weight, Dr. Lappé suggests three things — all reliant on you. Your kids are more likely to make healthy choices if you do too.
“Get active with your kids,” says Dr. Lappé. “Don’t tell them to go outside and do something. Do it with them.”
Shoot hoops. Play tag. Ride bikes. A good guideline is 60 minutes of aerobic activity per day. But this can be split up into more than one session.
If chicken fingers and fries are all your kids eat, encourage them to try new foods…with you. Turn healthy eating into a fun family adventure. Together, go to the store, select a vegetable or other healthy item you don’t typically eat and prepare it.
The United States Department of Agriculture suggests you cover half of your meal plate with fruits and vegetables. Limit fats and sugars.
When you have meals, turn off the TV, set aside mobile devices, and eat together at the table. “Limiting your own screen time sets an example for your kids,” says Dr. Lappé.
Focus on each other, she advises. Talk about your day and learn how your kids are doing physically and emotionally. Knowing their health concerns is the first step to resolving them.