Children Confronting What Used to be an Adult Problem – Obesity!


Children and Adolescents – Obesity

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the recent weight epidemic in the United States is the fact that our children and teenagers are weighing more at younger ages than previous generations did.  In fact, 17% of children and adolescents (about 12.5 million total) from the ages of 2 to 19 years old are considered obese, or have a Body Mass Index (BMI – a measurement that compares weight and height) – of at least 30.  That is roughly 1 out of every 6 children/adolescents who are at least 30 pounds overweight.1

The numbers are even more frightening if they are broken down further2:

18% – percentage of adolescents 12-19 years of age who are obese

20% – percentage of adolescents 6-11 years of age who are obese

10% – percentage of adolescents 2-5 years of age who are obese

That comes out to 1 out of every 10 children between the ages of 2 to 5 being at least 30 pounds overweight, 1 out of every 5 children between the ages of 6 to 11 being at least 30 pounds overweight, and nearly 1 out of every 5 children between the ages of 12 to 19 being at least 30 pounds overweight.

It is obvious that this is a major problem that needs to be addressed in order to protect and ensure the safety and health of our children.

Determining if a Child Is Overweight

In order to determine whether your child is overweight or not, you must first obtain accurate height and weight measurements for your child.  Once you have obtained these, then you can calculate your child’s BMI.  BMI is considered to be a reliable measurement of body fatness for the vast majority of teens and children.You then will interpret the BMI using the BMI Percentile Calculator found on the Center For Disease Control and Prevention’s website to compare your child’s percentile to the calculate BMI-for-age percentile and results.3,4

Once you have the BMI number, you will plot it on the CDC BMI for age growth charts to attain a percentile ranking.  You then compare that percentile ranking to the following statuses as adapted from the classifications by the Centers for Disease Control:5

  • Underweight – BMI for age is under the 5th percentile
  • Healthy or normal weight – Between 5th percentile and under 85th percentile
  • Overweight – Between 85th percentile to under 95th percentile
  • Obese – Between 95th percentile to 100th percentile

Special Calorie and Nutrition Needs of Children

If your child is considered to be overweight or obese, or even if your child is not overweight or obese, it is important to pay special attention to the special calorie and nutrition needs of your child.

Children aged 2 and older should have a diet that consists primarily of fruits and vegetables, low-fat and non-fat dairy products, fish, lean meat, beans, and whole grains.7  This diet will help to minimize the amounts of added sugar, cholesterol, and saturated and trans fat in your child’s diet.6

It is also recommended that your child receives the proper intake of micronutrients critical to the health and well-being of your child.7  These micronutrients include the following:

  • Sodium
  • Fiber
  • Total fat
  • Carbohydrates
  • Proteins
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium

The amount will vary both on the age and the gender of your child.  For instance, girls who are 9-13 years of age require between 1,400 to 2,200 calories, depending on their growth and activity levels, while boys who are 9-13 years of age require between 1,600 to 2,600 calories, depending on their growth and activity levels. This will also affect the proper amount of total fat, carbohydrates, and proteins, since the recommended amounts are percentages of the daily amount of calories that are taken in.

Increasing The Activity Level

An important factor in being able to control and lose weight is to have your children move.  They need to utilize the energy that they are gaining from food in order to burn it off and not have it turn into stored fat.  Without enough activity, the food they eat will turn into stored fat, and that can cause weight gain and deteriorating health.

School Issues

While it’s possible to control or guide what your children eat at home and how healthy they eat, it’s not as easy to control what they eat at school, since you are not cooking for them and you cannot choose what they eat and drink from the cafeteria and/or from vending machines.

 If they eat unhealthy foods and drinks while at school, it will make it much more difficult for them to maintain or lose weight, since they need to get in enough physical activity in order to burn off the calories they gained when eating the foods and drinking the beverages they selected.

The Importance of Losing and Maintaining the Weight of Our Children

It is evident that the United States is dealing with a severe weight gain crisis in our children and adolescents.  Without significant changes to their eating and lifestyle habits, it is likely that more and more children will become overweight and obese in the coming years, and the percentage of the American population will continue to increase over time.

 By focusing our efforts on educating our children about the importance of their diets and physical activity levels and helping our children to change their unhealthy habits when it comes to both diet and exercise, we can help to turn the tide of the increasing obesity percentage in the United States and ensure that our children have healthy and promising futures.


1  Obesity and Overweight for Professionals: Defining | DNPAO | CDC. (2010, June 21). From The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/obesity/defining.html

2 FASTSTATS – Overweight Prevalence. (2010, June 18). From Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/overwt.htm

3 Healthy Weight: Assessing Your Weight: BMI: About BMI for Children and Teens | DNPAO | CDC. (2011, June 2). From Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/childrens_bmi/about_childrens_bmi.html

4 Healthy Weight: Assessing Your Weight: BMI: Child and Teen Calculator | DNPAO | CDC. (2011). From Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: apps.nccd.cdc.gov/dnpabmi/


6 Gidding, SS; Dennison, BA; Birch LL, et.al.; Dietary recommendations for children and adolescents: a guide for practitioners: consensus statement from the American Heart Association. (27 September 2005) Circulation, 112(13):2061-75.

7 Ibid


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