Weight Issues in Preschoolers

Submitted by Pregnancy and Baby Care team on October 10, 2012

You may think it's too early to start worrying about weight but statistics show that an obese child more often than not develops into an obese adult. With the number of overweight children increasing dramatically in the US, obesity is now a problem that needs to be tackled at an early age. The primary causes of obesity in children are poor eating habits coupled with an absence of exercise. Since eating patterns and exercise routines are generally established at a young age, it is important that any effort to prevent obesity starts early on in life.


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The first step towards tackling the problem is to determine whether your preschooler's weight is normal. Every child is different with different growth patterns and body types. Do not base your worries about your child's weight on your own perception.

Instead consult with your doctor or health care practitioner to assess your child's weight in context of his height, age, and growth history. Even if your child is diagnosed as overweight or obese, very few doctors will go so far as to put him on a diet. Except when used for medical reasons, a diet will only restrict the amount of nutrients required and limit a child's energy reserves. Under no circumstances should you apply your own diet on your child either. Try the following suggestions instead to keep your preschooler's weight within the normal parameters:

  • An ideal diet for a preschooler should include lean meats, seafood, eggs, whole grains, dairy and fresh fruit and vegetables. An easy way of knowing whether you are providing your family with a healthy balanced diet is by following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The most recent edition of these Dietary Guidelines can be found at www.mypyramid.gov or at http://www.choosemyplate.gov/preschoolers.html
  • Encourage healthy eating by example. If you want your child to eat better, start off by doing the same. You cannot expect him to choose a baked potato if you are munching on fries, can you? Similarly, inculcate healthy goals and a positive attitude towards food without emphasizing a particular preschooler diet.
  • Family plays an important role in staying healthy. Make dinner times special by collecting the whole family together to eat. Shut off the TV and discourage any other distractions such as games or books while eating. Teach your children to savor their food and enjoy each morsel. This goes a long way towards preventing overeating.
  • Stop kids from snacking throughout the day. Rather plan five to six smaller healthier meals that will keep them full for longer. Do not stock your home with high-calorie, high-fat convenience foods. At the same time do not deprive children of occasional treats. Doing so will only lead to bingeing later on.
  • Increase the amount of time spent on physical activity. It could be as simple as letting your kids kick a ball around in the yard or more organized such as taking them on walks, bike rides or hikes.
    Substitute high-calorie favorites with healthier options. For example swap white rice with couscous, sweet potatoes for white potatoes, fig bars for cookies, and yoghurt for ice cream. These small changes can make all the difference in the long run.
  • Restrict the amount of sedentary time spent on TV, video games and the computer. Today's generation of kids have an endless supply of reasons to remain couch potatoes. If you are serious about improving your preschooler's health, you have to take a firm stand on how much time is spent on these activities on a daily basis.
  • If your child is a picky eater or if you are worried that he is not receiving the nutrition he requires from his diet, speak to your pediatrician about adding a multi-vitamin supplement to his diet. This does not mean you can cut out the healthy foods though so stick to your healthy meal plans as well.
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