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By Health Promotion Board in collaboration with A/Prof Marion Aw, Senior Consultant, Division of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Nutrition, Hepatology and Liver Transplantation, National University Hospital.

Your child is slightly taller and heavier than other children his age, even though he gets lots of physical activity during the day. Should mum and dad be worried?

What you can do is to check his height and weight percentiles in the growth charts for children of his age and gender. You can find these in the health booklet.

Here’s a sample height-for-age chart for girls aged 4 to 18 years old:

Opmz_girl_height_for_age_chart.jpg

Look at the height growth chart and see which percentile your child falls under. Do the same for your child’s weight in the weight growth chart:

  1. If the weight percentile is much higher than the height percentile, then your child is relatively overweight for his height. For example, your child’s height is in the 75th percentile and his weight is in the 95th percentile. In this case, your child is likely eating more calories than he is using.

  2. If the height and weight percentiles are about the same, and both parents are tall, then his being slightly taller and heavier than average is likely genetic—no cause for concern there!

Related: Did You Know BMI Isn’t the Same for Adults and Kids?

Healthy, Not Restrictive Diet

If your child is overweight, do not put him on a restrictive weight-loss diet, as your child is still growing. What’s more important is to make sure you’ve got the proper food foundations, and that your child is eating a healthy balanced diet, with a variety of food from all major food groups.

Try slightly reducing portions instead—this will cut down on the calories he consumes. For example, one less cracker during snack time, a slightly smaller serving of brown rice, a smaller piece of lean meat. These little changes can add up!

Do also observe the basic principle of energy balance: calories in, calories out. That means the calories your child takes in should be equal to the calories he burns through physical activity. Ideally, a child should get at least three hours of physical activity in a day, half of which should be spent outdoors.

Related: A Healthy Food Foundation—for Kids and Teens

Watch the Snacks and Drinks

You may have your main meals perfected, but what your little one nibbles on and drinks throughout the day can also impact his weight.

For example, snacks like nuggets and hotdogs might seem harmless, but they are rather high in calories and fat, and low in nutrients. Candy and chocolates are also high in calories and sugar, as are most energy bars.

These are foods that should only be taken sometimes, and in small amounts. For healthier snacks, why not offer fresh fruit or a small handful of crunchy nuts instead?

Similarly, soft drinks, juice, and other sweetened beverages are high in sugar and calories—this includes sports drinks that your child might take after physical activity. The best bet is plain water after regular playtime or light/moderate physical activity!

Related: Healthy Snacks for Kids

Move It, Move It

And of course, don’t forget the physical activity. While your little ball of energy might seem to be always on-the-move, remember that kids his age need plenty of physical activity—at least three hours of physical play a day!

So he might have spent an hour running around the playground with his friends, but he would need another two hours of activity for the day. Here are some fun ideas to try:

  • Play catching with him
  • Take a walk in the park
  • Have a fun day out at the beach (and a yummy picnic with healthy snacks)
  • Dance to his favourite songs
  • Organise a “Sports Day” at home and try different activities like long jump, 10m sprint, football, shotput (with a beanbag)

What’s most important is to make sure your child grows up enjoying exercise and eating healthy food. These things should not feel like chores to him, so go have fun with the little one, mummy and daddy!


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References:

  1. Keith Ayoob ED.D., R.D. (February 1, 2009). My Child Plays Sports and Runs Around All The Time but Is Still Overweight. What Am I Doing Wrong?. Retrieved November 2018 from https://abcnews.go.com/Health/WellnessResource/story?id=6764312
  2. Tanya Ryan-Segger. (September 18, 2012). Why Is My Active Child Overweight?. Retrieved from https://www.blackmores.com.au/kids-health/why-is-my-active-child-overweight