Children and healthy weight

Your child's weight matters and there are things you can do if you are concerned about it. You can also calculate your child's height and weight to see if they are in a healthy range.

Why your child’s weight matters

Children who are overweight are more likely to develop diabetes or heart disease in later life and are more likely to be obese as adults. 

Overweight children could also be affected by:

  • teasing or bullying
  • low self-esteem
  • embarrassment when playing games or sports
  • difficulty in being active (for example, getting breathless quickly)

Even if your child is not overweight or obese, it is important that they eat healthily and are physically active. 

Children's healthy weight

To work out if your child has a healthy weight range, you need to be aware:

  • children and teenagers are still growing
  • boys and girls grow differently

Your child's sex and age are also important. You must not use adult height and weight categories for anyone under 18.

You can use an online calculator to work out if your child has a healthy weight range. 

Results from the calculator only provide an estimation of body fat. Other factors like how fit the person is or their ethnic origin, or even puberty, can affect results

Even if a child is within a healthy range, their health could still be at risk if they are very unfit or have an unhealthy diet. If you have concerns about your child's weight, ask your doctor for advice.

If you're concerned about your child’s weight

The best thing that you can do is to help your child develop healthy eating habits and be more physically active. Children who see their parents, grandparents and carers following a healthy lifestyle, tend to learn by example and it will help them develop good habits. These habits become a normal part of everyday life.

Healthy eating for children

It is not a good idea to count calories or severely restrict food for children. Eating regular sit-down meals as a family, limiting high-calorie snacks and sugar-rich drinks, and trying to avoid ‘food on the run’ will help get your child into good eating habits for life.

Resist the temptation to give your child sweets and chocolate for rewards or comfort.

Every day all children should aim to eat:

  • five or more portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables (a portion size is roughly equal to the child's handful)
  • meals that are based on starchy foods, like potatoes, pasta, rice, bread, breakfast cereal or other cereals
  • lower fat dairy products like milk, yoghurt, fromage frais or cheese (once children are over five)

A small amount of low-fat spread on bread or toast, and oil in cooking sauces or salad dressings, can help children enjoy healthy tasty meals. Savoury and sweet snacks (like crisps, biscuits and chocolate) and sugary drinks should be kept to a minimum. Try giving chopped up fruit as an alternative.

Healthy habits at home and school

Schools are required to meet nutritional standards for school food, so children will be offered only healthy food choices.

Getting them to eat healthier options at home will be consistent with what they get at school.

Try to do as many of these as you can:

  • sit together as a family to eat your meal if you can
  • switch the television off when you are eating
  • eat a balanced choice of healthy foods yourself and be positive about them
  • try and encourage the family to try new foods
  • encourage and praise ‘good eating’ instead of nagging
  • involve the children in food preparation

For more information on how your child’s school is helping your child stay fit and healthy, go to:

Physical education

The Curriculum Sports Programme, in which many primary schools take part, aims to develop the generic physical literacy skills of the youngest pupils (Years 1-4), helping to raise their self-esteem and improve their motivation to learn.  Pupils also learn about the importance of healthy lifestyles through the Personal Development strand of the curriculum.

To read more about physical education in schools, go to:

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