What is obesity? Obesity in children and adults is a measurement linked to body mass index (BMI). An overweight child or young person has a BMI at or above the 85th percentile and below the 95th percentile for children and young people of the same age and gender. An obese child or young person has a BMI at or above the 95th percentile. After you know where your child falls on the BMI scale, you will be better informed.

Often physical education teachers talk about BMI in their classes, but how can you calculate your child’s BMI? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a BMI calculator that takes just a few seconds to complete. After you have calculated your child’s BMI, the calculator will let you where your child falls.

According to the CDC National Center for Health Statistics, in 2015-2016, the prevalence of obesity was 18.5% in children and young people ages 2-19. During 2015-2016, obesity impacted about 13.7 million children and young people.

There are many things families can do to promote healthy choices and help reduce childhood obesity.

  • Set a positive example. Be a healthy role model for the children in your life. Follow the guidelines you set for your children, and explain to your children when you don’t.
  • Serve healthy meals. Use the Food Guide Pyramid from the USDA https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/sites/default/files/archived_projects/FGPPamphlet.pdf to help you prepare healthy meals that support a balanced diet. The USDA also provides helpful information about foods that have unnecessary added sugars. Ask older children to help you plan (and cook!) meals and find recipes they will enjoy.
  • Provide plenty of water. We need water to survive, and water is a great way to flush out toxins and help your body digest food and function more efficiently. Depending on their age, children should drink 5-10 glasses of water each day.
  • Limit consumption of sugar-filled drinks. Encourage children to substitute water for sugary drinks such as sports drinks or soda. Those drinks are OK once in a while, but they contain a lot of sugar, which contributes to weight gain.
  • Provide fruits and vegetables as snacks. Apples, berries, bananas, grapes, carrots, celery, etc., are all great between-meal snacks for active kids.
  • Be active together. Incorporate family activity time into each week. Family activity time can include exercising together at home, walking or running at a park, playing soccer, riding bikes or scooters, ice-skating, yoga, and even dancing.
  • Encourage active play and active learning. Active play and active learning come in many forms. During the school day, support PE, recess, and physical activity in the classroom including activity breaks and movement-centered lessons. Support organized sports and other movement-centered activities outside of school.
  • Reduce sedentary screen time. Use the Family Media Plan Tool to set guidelines for media use for school-age children.
  • Include activity breaks. Screen time is inevitable. Whether they’re playing computer games or watching the TV or movies, encourage your children to take a two-minute activity break every 15 minutes. Activities for kids might include exercises such as jumping jacks, a few laps around the room with high knees, lunges, push-ups, etc.

To learn more about preventing childhood obesity, including information about childhood obesity in your state, visit Alliance for a Healthier Generation.