Girls share a laugh before lunch at a New Image Weight Loss
Camp at Camp Pocono Trails in Reeders, Pennsylvania. Photo
Parents may be in denial when it comes to their kids'
About half of parents with overweight or obese children don't
think their kids are too heavy, a new study shows.
This is true in the US and around the world, the researchers
"Parents who underestimate their kids' weight may not take
action to encourage healthy behaviors that would improve
their child's weight and reduce their risk of future health
conditions," says lead author Alyssa Lundahl, a graduate
student in the clinical psychology programme at the
University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
These findings come after a study out last week showed that
kids who are overweight in kindergarten are four times more
likely to be obese by eighth grade compared with their
About a third of the nation's young people are overweight or
obese, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Extra pounds put kids at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes,
high blood pressure, high cholesterol, liver disease, sleep
apnea, musculoskeletal problems and other health problems.
Lundahl and colleagues reviewed 69 studies involving almost
16,000 children, ages 2 to 18. Among findings in the March
issue of Pediatrics, online now:
• 51% of parents with overweight or obese children thought
their kids were a normal weight.
• About 14% of parents with normal-weight kids considered
their child underweight.
• Parents of kids ages 2 to 5 were more likely to
underestimate the weight of heavy children than parents of
heavy kids in elementary school or older. "As kids get older,
parents realize it's not just baby fat any more, and the kids
are not going to grow out of it," Lundahl says.
• Parents were less accurate in judging the size of their
sons, thinking that normal weight boys were actually
underweight. "There is a belief that boys are supposed to be
big, strong and muscular, so normal-weight sons are sometimes
perceived as too small," she says.
Children are classified as overweight or obese based on where
they fall on body mass index (BMI) growth charts: Those at
the 85th to 95th percentile are considered overweight; those
at or above the 95th percentile are considered obese.
Exercise physiologist Melinda Sothern, co-author of Trim Kids
and a professor at Louisiana State University Health Sciences
Center in New Orleans, offers these suggestions for parents
who want to improve the eating and exercise habits of their
• When kids are thirsty, give them water, not high-sugar
beverages such as sodas. Serve fat-free or low-fat milk at
• For treat foods, provide healthy fruits and snacks such as
grapes, raisins and string cheese. When your child selects an
unhealthy snack, redirect and give choices: Do you want
strawberries, carrots or melon for your snack?
• Consume food and drinks only at the kitchen or dining room
table or other designated areas.
• Have children eat a healthy breakfast.
• Reduce eating fast food to less than once a week.
• At the grocery store, have children select one fruit and
vegetable to try each week and skip the candy, cookie and
• Provide opportunities for young children to safely climb,
run and jump to encourage the development of muscular
strength and endurance.
• Let your children try a variety of activities such as
sports, dance, martial arts or swimming in a safe and
• Limit screen time to less than two hours a day.