It's easy to fall in love with your child's chubby cheeks and pudgy legs. But by the age of two, if your toddler is heavier than the other children of the same age, it's possible that he or she may be overweight.
How can you tell the difference between normal baby fat and an actual weight problem? Here's the skinny on excessive weight and obesity in children:
Is my child overweight?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the Body Mass Index (BMI) is the best indicator. BMI is a measurement of someone's body fat based on his or her height and weight. A child at a normal or healthy weight should fall between the 5th and 85th percentiles for children of the same age and gender. If your kid's BMI is at or above the 85th percentile, then he or she is overweight. BMI scores in the 95th percentile are considered obese.
You can use a BMI calculator, like the one on the KidsHealth website, to find out your kid's BMI. All you have to do is enter age, gender, height and weight and the tool will give you the BMI and a chart showing the percentile.
What to do if your child has a high BMI
KidsHealth noted that a high BMI is not always a sign of trouble. There are certain times when a child might gain weight - during a growth spurt for example - and the BMI will go up temporarily. That's why most doctors track these numbers over time. It's important to see if there's a consistent trend.
Most pediatricians start keeping track of your child's weight around the age of two. If you're worried that your little one might be at risk, bring it up during your next visit.
How to manage your child's weight
Being overweight can lead to quite a few problems for your little one. Overweight or obese children often end up with other health issues and they can carry their weight struggles into adulthood. The CDC noted that "children with obesity can be bullied and teased more than their average weight peers. They are also more likely to suffer from social isolation, depression and lower self-esteem."
So what can you do to keep your kid healthy? Parents Magazine offered the following recommendations:
- Avoid foods that are high in starch: Starchy foods can quickly dissolve into glucose, so switching to foods high in protein can make a big difference.
- Choose fruits and vegetables with a low glycemic index: A food's glycemic index will tell you how fast that item's carbohydrates will turn into glucose. The lower the index number, the longer your child will likely feel full.
- Add protein to meals and snacks: Healthy fruits and vegetables can make a world of difference if you're trying to cut unhealthy snacks and sides from your kid's diet.
- Watch out for highly processed foods: These choices are usually not as healthy as natural foods.
- Make healthy eating a family affair: Nobody likes to feel singled out. Pushing the whole family toward healthier eating habits can benefit everyone and avoid making your child feel uncomfortable at the dinner table.