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Overweight - What it is

Incidence and Medical Consequences of Overweight in Children

In Singapore, the incidence of overweight/obesity amongst school children is 11%. Being overweight increases the risk of many diseases including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes mellitus, sleep apnea, gall bladder disease and certain cancers. A child is considered overweight when his weight is 20 percent or more above his ideal weight for height.

Is My Child Overweight?

As a parent, you play an important part in helping your child. If you suspect that your child is overweight, have it checked out before he develops any medical conditions associated with overweight. It is important that you see a dietitian or doctor, who can assess your child's history of weight gain and growth pattern.

How Do Children Become Overweight?

Generally, overweight is the result of consuming more calories than the body needs, resulting in the unused energy being stored as body fat. This could be due to several contributing factors, like:

  • Consuming large quantities of food, above what is required
  • High intake of high calorie foods like deep-fried food, fast foods and snack foods
  • High intake of sweet drinks, sweets and sweetened foods
  • A sedentary lifestyle with limited or lack of outdoor play and physical activities, spending a lot of time in front of the TV or playing computer games.

Children whose parents or siblings are overweight are also more likely to become overweight, due to genetic and lifestyle factors.

Practical Steps To Help Your Overweight Child

The aim is to reach and maintain a healthy weight appropriate for the height of your child. The best way to achieve this is by making small but permanent changes in eating habits and physical activity, instead of drastic changes that most probably will not last for long. Remember, healthy eating habits should be gradually developed, so do not put your child on an overly-restrictive diet as this is likely to fail. It is better to allow small amounts of foods like chocolate, ice cream or tit-bits once a week than not at all.

Cut down on Fat and Oil

Reducing fat is a good way to cut calories without depriving your child of important nutrients. Simple ways to cut the fat in your family's diet include :

  • Removing the skin on the poultry, and using lean meat
  • Changing to low fat milk and dairy products
  • Reducing the amount of oil used in cooking. Instead of deep-frying your food, try steaming, stewing, grilling, baking or microwaving
  • Avoid using coconut milk in curries. Switch to low fat milk, low fat yoghurt or low fat evaporated milk. Tomatoes and onions are also good substitutes for thickening your gravy

Encourage Regular Eating Habits

Children who skip their main meals tend to eat more snacks. As snacks are often high in calories and low in fibre, this may lead to overeating.

Discourage Meals Or Snacking While Watching TV

Encourage eating only at the dining table. Eating in front of the TV is distracting and it is easy to lose track of the amounts eaten, thus leading to overeating.

Do Not Use Foods As Rewards Or Punishments

When foods like sweets or fast foods are used as a reward, children will assume that these foods are better or more valuable than others.

Practice Healthy Eating Habits As A Family

Not only will your child not feel singled out, the whole family benefits from a healthier diet and a more active lifestyle.

Increase Your Family's Physical Activities

Regular physical activity, combined with healthy eating habits, is the most effective way to control your child's weight.

Try these:

  • Plan activities that everyone in the family can enjoy like walking, cycling or swimming. Go for a walk after dinner instead of sitting down in front of the TV set.
  • Encourage more outdoor play
  • Be a role model for your child. If he sees that you are physically active, he is more likely to be active and stay active for the rest of his life.


Although your child may be overweight, he is also growing. Therefore, the aim is not for him to lose weight but rather to gain weight at a slower rate. Treatment programmes, if any, should be carried out under medical supervision to ensure that it is safe, and that your child is not deprived of any essential nutrients.

Be there for your child - he needs your support and encouragement.

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Overweight - Diagnosis

Overweight - Treatments

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Overweight - Post-surgery care

Overweight - Other Information

The information provided is not intended as medical advice. Terms of use. Information provided by SingHealth

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