Do you know the truth about your child’s weight?

Do you know the truth about your child’s weight?

The latest government report says nearly one in six young people tip the scales as obese. But ask moms and dads and you might get a different story. Nearly half of parents underestimate body weight for heavy children, according to a recent study.

“No parent wants to label a child as overweight,” says Naveen Uli, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist and Medical Co-Director of Healthy Kids, Healthy Weight™ at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. “However, this can have real consequences for a child’s health since many parents are less likely to seek a solution for a problem that has not been identified.”

Charting obesity’s course

Obesity begins early. More than one-fourth of kindergartners already weigh in as overweight or obese, another new study finds.

From there, kids’ weight fate may largely be set. Overweight 5-year-olds face quadruple the risk of growing into obese schoolchildren and teens, compared with their normal-weight peers. And heavy teens usually do not outgrow the phase. They become overweight adults and face increased risks for heart disease, diabetes and other health problems along the way.

Start early to plan a lighter future

Fortunately, you do not have to sit by and watch this story unfold. “Start by asking your pediatrician about obesity – even when your child is a toddler,” says Dr. Uli. “The doctor can calculate your child’s body mass index, or BMI, and give you the facts about his or her weight and health.”

According to Dr. Uli, pediatricians can also offer guidance about helping kids reach – and maintain – a healthy weight. Here are some tips:

  • Get serious about sleep. Children who do not log enough Z’s are more likely to be overweight. “Preschoolers typically need 11 to 12 hours of sleep per day, school-aged children need 10, and teens need nine,” explains Dr. Uli. “Set a bedtime schedule – and stick to it.”
  • Encourage exercise. “Make physical activity as routine as eating and sleeping,” advises Dr. Uli. Allow young children at least an hour a day to run around and play. As they grow, schedule structured activities they enjoy, like biking, swimming or basketball. Dr. Uli adds, “The benefits to kids’ muscles, bones and waistline can extend for years.”
  • Quit the clean plate club. Rewarding your child for eating more can lead to obesity down the road, recent research shows. Instead, Dr. Uli recommends encouraging kids to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Cook and eat healthy meals together as often as possible.

Helping families stay healthy for life

Healthy Kids, Healthy Weight™ is an interactive wellness program that helps children, ages 4 to 18, and their families achieve a healthy weight through healthy lifestyle choices.

Pediatric outpatient nutrition services are available at these convenient locations:

  • W.O. Walker Center | Cleveland, Ohio
  • UH Chagrin Highlands Health Center | Orange Village, Ohio
  • UH Medina Health Center | Medina, Ohio
  • UH Westlake Health Center | Westlake, Ohio

Schedule an appointment today! Call 216-UH4-KIDS (216-844-5437) or visit

Eat your veggies

Kids need to eat about 2.5 cups of vegetables a day to stay healthy and fit. But picky eaters tend to turn up their noses at veggies. To change their minds:

  • Plant your own. Kids love playing in the dirt – and gardening can increase the chances they will eat what they sow.
  • Explore the store. Let your child help pick a new veggie to try.
  • Cook together. Bring the prize home and prepare it as a family.
  • Start early. Add veggies to breakfast dishes like omelets or breakfast sandwiches. Or blend bananas, strawberries and other fruit with spinach to make a veggie-powered smoothie.
  • Snack smart. Serve cut-up veggies with hummus or baked kale chips instead of cookies or fried chips.
  • Sneak them in. Puree veggies and use them to thicken soups and stews. Or shred carrots or zucchini into burgers or meat loaf.
Naveen Uli

Pediatric Endocrinologist, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital
Associate Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

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