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It is safe for children to diet in 2 senses. The first sense is a calorie-controlled diet that is rich in nutrients with few to no empty calories. The second sense is in adopting a diet, or eating lifestyle, which is balanced and will also instill in them good habits that can last a lifetime.

Dealing with being overweight
Around 33% of children in the US are overweight or obese, which can lead to various health problems, some of which are similar to what middle aged people suffer. These include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and even heart disease and stroke. Studies have shown that children who are overweight tend to struggle with obesity as adult.

So, how can you best determine what the ideal weight is for your child? The Body Mass Index system can help.

Unlike the adult charts, you have to add their date of birth and gender, then their height and weight. The results will show the BMI measurement, such as 22.4, and then give you an explanation, guidelines and charts. For example, an 11 year old boy who is 100 pounds and 4 feet 8 inches tall would get this message:

“Your BMI is 22.4. That puts you in the 93 percentile, which indicates you are overweight. The healthy weight range for your height and age is 65 to 90 lbs.”

Setting a target weight
Once you know if your child is overweight or obese, and have the suggested guidelines, such as 65 to 90 pounds, you can aim for a particular target weight. For example, if you wanted to aim for 90 pounds, 100 minus 90 would mean a loss of 10 pounds.

It would then be up to you to decide how best to reach that target weight.

Calories, exercise and smart food choices
Counting calories can help you get started. Check how many calories your child should have, based on age, using the current USDA guidelines.

They start on page 77. If we look at an 11 year old boy, we see, they can have 1,800 calories if they don’t do much physical activity (are sedentary), 2,000 if moderately active, and 2,200 if very active. You could then encourage them to become more active, but not increase their calories, or even lower them slightly, such as to 1,600.

Then it is a case of following a balanced diet in which they make smart choices about what they eat and drink. One can of Coke has 140 calories. 1 cup of apple juice has 113. Make sure your child is not drinking too many calories.

As for sensible eating, make every calorie count. Serve more soups and stews. They are filling and full of fiber and nutrition because none of the vitamins and minerals have been boiled away. Use fresh fruit as a dessert, such as berries or a baked apple.

Then watch your child slim down to a normal weight.