Q: My grandson is almost 3 and weighs 53 lbs. His doctor is very displeased, as he is officially obese. She checked for diabetes, thyroid, etc. and there were no problems. She doesn't want us to put him on a diet, but rather maintain his weight until he grows into it. He is about 65 percentile on height. We have cut down on a lot of the foods he loves but are high in calories.What are the best ways of doing this? How many calories/day should we shoot for? He is very active.
A: I’m sure you’re relieved to know that your grandson isn’t suffering from diabetes or a thyroid disorder. Still, his excess weight can contribute to a number of health problems now and in the future, so you and your grandson’s doctor are wise to address it immediately.
For children with weight issues, it’s really wise to consult a pediatric dietitian early on. While it’s generally not a good idea to put children on a low calorie weight loss diet, it’s very important to make sure that overweight kids don’t eat too many calories each day. It’s also important that they get the maximum nutritional value from the foods they consume.
The dietary guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) address caloric needs based on age. For ages 2 to 3, the USDA recommends a child consume 1,000 to 1,400 calories, depending on his activity level. Those calories should come from the five food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and protein foods, such as meat and beans.
The USDA has published a wonderful resource entitled Tips for Using the Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children 2 to 6 years Old. It’s very helpful, and after reading it you’ll have a good idea about how to structure your grandson’s diet. Here’s the link:
For kids who are overweight, it’s beneficial to cut down as much as possible on processed foods, fast food and junk food, and sweets, and to eliminate sweet beverages altogether. When kids want to snack, most raw and steamed vegetables are excellent choices. They’re rich in vitamins and minerals, high in fiber, and low in calories. With most other foods, portion size is extremely important.
The good news is that by addressing your grandson’s weight and eating issues early in life, chances are excellent that he’ll “grow into” his weight and become a healthier, happier child.