Basics of Maintaining Healthy Weight in Children

By  ,  National Institute of Health
Jan 14, 2013

As parents and caregivers, you make a big difference in what your children—and the children you care for—think and do. You are role models for your family. Eating right and being physically active can help you maintain a healthy weight. When your children see you making these choices, there’s a good chance that they will do the same.

What is your goal as a parent or caregiver, when it comes to helping your family maintain a healthy weight? It’s to promote "energy balance" in your family's life.
What is “energy balance”?

Energy is another word for "calories." What you eat and drink is ENERGY IN. What you burn through physical activity is ENERGY OUT. Energy balance is the balance between ENERGY IN and ENERGY OUT; this balance is needed in order to maintain a healthy weight. Other factors that affect a person's weight include metabolism (the way your body converts food and oxygen into energy), genes, and the environment.

Changes in our environment that make it harder to engage in healthy behavior have a lot to do with our overall increase in weight over the past few decades. For example:

  • We're an in-the-car and sit-behind-a-desk society. For many of us—parents and children alike—daily life doesn't involve a lot of physical activity. If we want to be active, we have to make an effort.
  • Food is everywhere, along with messages telling us to eat and drink. We can get something to eat in places where it was never available before—like the gas station. Going out to eat or buying carryout is easy.
  • Food portions at restaurants and at home are bigger than they used to be.


What is a Healthy Weight

We all have our own ideas about what a healthy body weight is. Some people think a healthy weight is being "model thin." Others think how they feel is more important than the size of their waistline or the weight displayed on their bathroom scale. To help you sort through the confusion, health experts have developed standards that define normal weight, overweight, and obesity in adults.

Maintaining a healthy body weight is important to maintaining your health. As people gain weight, their risks for high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, and heart disease all increase.

In adults, preventing weight gain as you age is critical, regardless of your current body weight. People who are overweight or obese may need to lose weight to improve their health.


Learn about BMI and a healthy weight

Your body mass index or BMI is the ratio of your body weight compared to your height. Knowing your BMI help you determine if you are at a healthy weight for your height. In addition, there are BMI tables that are designed for children, so you can find out if your child is at a healthy weight for their height and age.



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