Your child’s weight matters, because it can affect their health now and in the future.
Overweight children are more likely to grow up into overweight adults, who face all the health risks that carrying excess weight can bring.
If your child is overweight, it's time to take action.
Help your child get slim
The good news is that there are steps you can take that will set your child on the road to a healthy weight.
If your child is very overweight, or if they have other health conditions, it’s a good idea to ask for support. Your GP can help (see below).
Children are growing, so it’s usually not necessary for overweight children to lose weight. Instead, it is usually better that the child maintains their current weight while they continue to grow in height. This will depend on how overweight your child is, and other factors.
If you’re unsure about this or other issues, ask for advice from your GP or practice nurse.
Get healthy as a family
A healthy, balanced diet and plenty of physical activity will lead to a healthy weight for your child.
Making changes to your family’s lifestyle can make a real difference to your child’s weight. These changes work best, and are easiest, when the whole family joins in.
Eat regular meals, together and without distractions (such as TV) as a great first step towards a healthier diet. Cook yourself rather than relying on ready-made meals to help you to lower the fat and sugar content in your meals.
You can learn more about a healthy diet in Food and diet.
If your family eats snacks and meals that are high in fat or sugar, such as chocolate, biscuits, sweets and fizzy drinks, aim to replace these with healthier alternatives such as fruit. Read more about healthy food swaps.
Physical activity is also an important part of achieving a healthy weight. The amount of physical activity that is recommended for children depends on their age, and children who are overweight may need to do more than the recommended amount in order to lose weight. For more on how much activity children should do, and what counts as activity:
- If your child is under five read Physical activity guidelines for children.
- If your child is aged between five and 18 read Physical activity guidelines for children and young people.
Aim to reduce the amount of time your child spends on inactive hobbies, such as watching television and playing video games.
It’s also important to help your child develop a positive body image and good self-esteem. Habits in childhood will remain as they grow into adults, so praise them when they try healthier foods or when they swap a sedentary activity for an active one.
You can learn more about the lifestyle changes that can help your child at the Change4Life website.
How the school can help your child
The school that your child attends should support you in helping your child to achieve a healthy weight.
All schools should provide opportunities for physical activity, and healthy food at lunch time. Some schools will also help to ensure that your child does not bring unhealthy foods to school, by working with parents to set guidelines on packed lunches.
If your child is overweight, talk to your child's teachers about your plans to help your child slim down, and how the school can support this.
You’ll find ideas for healthy packed lunches in our section on healthy lunchboxes.
If you feel uncertain about helping your child to achieve a healthy weight, or the changes you’ve made don’t seem to be helping, then seek support.
This is also a good idea if your child is very overweight, has a health condition or any other special needs such as a learning difficulty.
Your GP or practice nurse can assess your child’s weight and provide further advice on lifestyle changes.
They may also be able to refer you to a local weight management programme for children, such as those run by the Weight Management Centre, MEND and Carnegie Weight Management. These programmes are often free to attend through your local PCT, and typically involve a series of weekly group workshop sessions with other parents and their children.
At these workshops you’ll learn more about the diet and lifestyle changes that can help your child to achieve a healthy weight.