The pediatrician told me that my son is "at risk for overweight." What does that mean?
The term "at risk for overweight" means your son's weight is at the higher end -- in the 85th to 94th percentile -- when compared with other boys of his age and height. The highest grouping -- for those in the 95th percentile or higher -- is simply called "overweight."
Basically, your pediatrician is alerting you that your son's weight is higher than average. It makes sense to start now to do something about it.
Interestingly, studies show that parents often don't recognize when their own children are heavier than normal. A study in the March 2006 issue of Pediatrics showed that only half of parents of overweight children, and only one in five parents whose children were at risk for overweight, recognized that their children were heavier than they should be. Parents tended to be more concerned if a doctor said something about their child's weight or if they perceived their child was slower or less active than other children. But without those external cues, many have trouble determining if their child has a weight problem.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the percentage of overweight 2-5 year olds increased from 7 percent to 14 percent between 1988-94 and 2003-2004; in 6-11 year olds, overweight increased from 11 to 19 percent; and in 12-19 year olds, it increased from 11 to 17 percent.
What can parents do? The Centers for Disease Control offers some guidance, including:
- Encourage healthy eating habits. Be sure your refrigerator and pantry are well-stocked with vegetables, fruits and whole-grain foods. Replace regular milk, cheese and other dairy products with nonfat or low-fat versions. Serve reasonably sized portions.
- Remove calorie-rich temptations. Replace potato chips, cookies and other high-fat and high-sugar snacks with lower-calorie snacks, such as baked chips or saltines. Even better, fill up on fresh fruit or raw vegetables, which are loaded with vitamins and minerals, and their high fiber has staying power, helping you feel satisfied longer.
- Move more. Children often imitate adults, so add physical activity to your daily routine and encourage your children to do the same or, better yet, to join you. Experts say children and teens should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week, preferably daily. So, turn off the TV, the video games and the computer, and take a brisk walk, play some basketball, or join a gym.
For more information, go to http://www.cdc.gov and search for "childhood overweight tips for parents."
Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor: This column was reviewed by Gail Kaye, nutrition specialist for Ohio State University Extension and director of the Dietetic Intern Program in the College of Education and Human Ecology