You can read something new every day about the current obesity epidemic. In fact, the percentage of overweight Americans has never been higher. But another, sometimes overlooked weight problem also exists: children who are overweight for their age or size. What causes this problem and, when it happens, how do healthcare providers get families back on track and help their children gain weight in a healthy way?  Pediatric registered dietitian, Morgan McGhee is only a call away. 

Morgan McGhee, MPH RD

Being able to tell whether a child is overweight is not always easy. Children grow at different rates and at different times. Also, the amount of a child’s body fat changes with age and differs between girls and boys.

One way to tell if your child is overweight is to calculate his or her body mass indexr (BMI). BMI is a measure of body weight relative to height. The BMI calculator uses a formula that produces a score often used to tell whether a person is underweight, a normal weight, overweight, or obese. The BMI of children is age- and sex-specific and known as the “BMI-for-age.”

BMI-for-age uses growth charts created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Doctors use these charts to track a child’s growth. The charts use a number called a percentile to show how your child's BMI compares with the BMI of other children. The main BMI categories for children and teens are

  • healthy weight: 5th to 84th percentile
  • overweight: 85th to 94th percentile
  • obese: 95th percentile or higher

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Advice If Your Child Is Overweight