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Weight Loss For Kids 2023: 6 Tips To Help Your Child Lose Weight

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Medically reviewed by Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

Nutrition and healthy eating significantly impact a child’s health and well-being. As a parent, you can teach your children healthy eating that serves them a lifetime. Good nutrition nourishes your child’s growing brain and body. It helps them maintain a healthy weight, allowing the child to enjoy food while staying fit and active. 

Being overweight is not easy on kids since they may have lower self-esteem. It also makes them more prone to bullying and health problems. This article will teach you how to help your child lose weight and stay healthy. Read for tips that help parents achieve healthy weight loss for overweight kids.

Reasons Why Kids Are Overweight

Childhood obesity can cause serious health problems, including high blood pressure. In fact, every 1 in 5 children and adolescents[1] in the USA face obesity. There could be many reasons[2] behind excess weight gain and childhood obesity:

Genetics and Hormonal Disorders

Genetic disorders such as Prader-Willi syndrome, leptin receptor mutations, and hormonal disorders such as hypothyroidism and growth hormone deficiency predispose obesity in children. However, in many cases, the reason behind obesity is exogenous. Obese children generally have obese family members because children’s eating behaviors come from their parents. Research does show[3] that 35-40% of a child’s weight problems may be inherited from mom and dad.

Physical Inactivity

Physical inactivity increased with electronic device use in childhood. The UK National Health Service (NHS)[4] and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) each recommend from 60 minutes to several hours of physical activities daily. Fun activities could be games like ‘it,’ ‘tag,’ bike ride, skateboarding, ball games, swimming, dancing, and so on. Activity can be muscle strengthening or cardio, both have their benefits.

Short Duration of Sleep

Children who sleep less have a greater risk[4] of becoming obese. School-aged children, 6-12 years old, are recommended to sleep[5] 9-12 hours per 24 hours. Children 13-18 need 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Some tips you can use to increase your kid’s sleep quality:

  • Having sleep time
  • Quiet and dark bedroom space
  • Electronic device-free bedroom
  • Avoiding big portions of food before bedtime
  • Increase physical activity during the day 

Nutrition and Eating Behaviors

Even though some kids may be genetically susceptible to being overweight, environmental factors such as nutrition still significantly impact body weight. Some eating behaviors[6] were found associated with childhood obesity:

  • Eating junk food instead of home-cooked healthy meals
  • Eating large portions of food
  • Not having breakfast and skipping meals 
  • Eating fast
  • Eating without feeling hungry

Poorly Designed Environment

Children spend many hours in school, and they eat there. What they are given in meals may influence their weight if schools have good policies encouraging kids to eat healthier. Planning healthy lunch meals is only one way to provide environmental support; the use of colorful posters and tray mats with healthy messages on them is another way to promote a healthy environment.

How You Can Tell That Your Child is Overweight

Body mass index (BMI) is an easy formula commonly used to assess body weight status. You can use the CDC’s BMI-for-age calculator[7] to evaluate your children’s weight status. If your children are on

  • 5th to 84th percentile, their weight is in the healthy range 
  • 85th to 94 percentile, they are overweight
  • 95 percentile or higher, they are obese 

Keep in mind that body mass index(BMI) is just a screening tool and does not directly assess body fat. You should certainly see a doctor if you are worried about your child’s weight status. Most importantly, please don’t make your children follow a weight loss plan that is not approved by their doctor and dietitian. A nutrition plan that is not advised by your children’s doctor and dietitian could do more harm than any good. Because your growing child has nutritional needs to meet and a weight loss diet should be planned accordingly. 

If a child has a medical condition, you should see a doctor get proper nutrition plans that meet your children’s needs.

6 Tips To Help Your Child Lose Weight

There are established nutritional and behavioral tips[4] that help your child lose weight:

  1. Children learn by observing, not by being told. That’s why parents should be role models. If you practice mindful eating, your child will develop healthy habits too. You can go shopping with your kids and teach your child how to distinguish healthy foods from unhealthy ones. You can make a meal plan with healthy ingredients you choose together.
  2. Be active with your kid. Children should be physically active for at least 1 hour a day. If you choose a sports activity that is fun and do it with your child, they will associate having fun with being active.
  3. If you make changes to a child’s diet, practicing new rules as a whole family can make it easier to gain a new habit.
  4. Serve small portions first and let your child decide if they are still hungry after eating it. It is crucial not to force a child to eat a bigger portion than they want to. You can also use plates designed for kids because adult plates may encourage your child to eat oversized portions.
  5. Practicing mindful eating habits makes eating more meaningful. Encourage your child to eat slower. Also, speaking about your and their day makes eating time bonding and fun for your kid. Try talking and sharing instead of watching TV.
  6. The role of healthy and quality sleep in weight management is generally overlooked. Sleep-wake cycles influence our hormones and thus our weight. Make sure your child is sleeping enough.

Overweight Child Diet Plans

Every child’s nutritional needs are different. It is not healthy to follow generalized overweight child diet plans. Only your child’s doctor and dietitian can have a say on what your child’s nutritional needs are. However, teaching healthy eating habits to your children is essential. You can teach your child the importance of eating healthy foods and how to choose them. 

Moderation is key to a balanced healthy diet. In most conditions, it is hard and unnecessary to limit all unhealthy foods in a child’s diet. From time to time, they should be allowed to have fun with food. There is no reason not to eat ice cream on a great sunny day. Teaching them the importance of moderation is way healthier, so you don’t have to limit everything and count calories. You can teach food groups how much they should eat from each group of food to have healthy and balanced nutrition[8]. Here is what you can advise your child:

  • Eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. It is important to choose different fruits and vegetables. For example, advise them to choose different colors of fruit and vegetables because they contain different nutrients. While oranges or kiwi contain greater amounts of vitamin C; tomatoes contain greater vitamin E, and carrots contain greater vitamin A. Although children love fruit juices, teach them not to drink more than 150 milliliters(ml) or 5 ounces of juice daily; since juices do not contain the fiber of the fruits, it increases blood sugar levels fast.
  • Whole grains, legumes, lentils, and beans are healthier carbohydrates that give them energy and fiber.
  • Milk and milk products contain calcium which is necessary for healthy bones.
  • Meat, fish, egg, lentils, and beans are high-quality protein sources.
  • Fast food and packaged products contain unhealthy ingredients; that’s why they should be eaten less often in small amounts.
  • More than 70% of their body consists of water, so they need 6-8 cups of water to stay healthy and hydrated. Sodas and beverages full of sugar are poor choices for meeting hydration needs.

Common Weight Loss Mistakes to Avoid


weight loss for kids

Excessively restricting[9] may make children more excited about forbidden foods. Moderation could be a better strategy than restriction.   

Labeling Foods as Good or Bad

weight loss for kids

Instead of labeling[10] some food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ without any foundation, try focusing on constructive comments that can explain certain foods’ health benefits compared to unhealthy and high-calorie foods. Using smily faces or frowny faces are used by some to indicate good vs. poor choices on menus or labels.

Using Generalized Diet Plans

weight loss for kids

Every child’s growth stages are different; thus, generalized diet plans on the internet are not just ineffective but pose health risks to the child’s health. It can deplete nutrients that a growing child actually needs.

Negative Comments About Weight

weight loss for kids

You should be careful when talking about weight[11]. Negative comments on weight can have a traumatic impact on children. If you want to talk to your kid about weight, don’t yell, bribe, threaten or punish the kid because feeling bad about weight can make kids eat more uncontrollably. They should be able to talk about their thoughts and feelings about their weight. If you listen and acknowledge them, they feel seen.

Final Thought

Unhealthy eating habits, decreased physical activity and other environmental factors are the most significant contributors to childhood obesity. Luckily, teaching your child healthy eating habits helps them lose weight and maintain a healthy BMI effortlessly.

Importantly, do not use generalized weight loss diets for your child since every child has unique nutritional needs. Instead, teach the benefits of healthy foods and how to choose them.

Weight can be a sensitive subject for kids. If healthcare professionals give weight loss or weight management programs, support your child emotionally in their weight loss journey.

+ 11 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Anon, (2022). Childhood Overweight & Obesity. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/index.html
  2. Anon, (2022). Obesity. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/index.htm
  3. HealthCorps. (2017). Childhood Obesity Strongly Linked to Parents’ Genetics. [online] Available at: https://www.healthcorps.org/fitness-2017-05-obesity-genetics/
  4. NHS Choices (2022). What can I do if my child is overweight? [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/childrens-weight/overweight-children-advice-for-parents/
  5. CDC (2022). Are you getting enough sleep? [online] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/features/getting-enough-sleep.html
  6. Brown, C.L., Halvorson, E.E., Cohen, G.M., Lazorick, S. and Skelton, J.A. (2015). Addressing Childhood Obesity. Pediatric Clinics of North America, [online] 62(5), pp.1241–1261. doi:10.1016/j.pcl.2015.05.013.
  7. CDC (2021). BMI Calculator Child and Teen. [online] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/bmi/calculator.html
  8. NHS Choices (2022). The Eatwell Guide. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/food-guidelines-and-food-labels/the-eatwell-guide/
  9. Fisher, J.O. and Birch, L.L. (1999). Restricting access to palatable foods affects children’s behavioral response, food selection, and intake. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, [online] 69(6), pp.1264–1272. doi:10.1093/ajcn/69.6.1264.
  10. Greenlaw, E. (2021). Is it ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for your child? Removing morality from eating – Boston Children’s Answers. [online] Boston Children’s Answers. Available at: https://answers.childrenshospital.org/removing-morality-from-eating/
  11. Eatright.org. (2019). How to Talk to Kids about Weight. [online] Available at: https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/your-overall-health/how-to-talk-to-kids-about-weight

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

Merve Ceylan is a beginner nutrition & health writer yet a professional dietitian with a particular curiosity in the healthcare business. Merve believes that every person should have a solid grasp of their nutrition and health status to live the best life.

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

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