Tips for a healthy weight child

More than 20 per cent of Australian children are either overweight or obese according to the Australasian Society for the Study of Obesity.

And a report by the New South Wales Centre for Overweight and Obesity found that thousands of Australian school children already have the first signs of chronic diseases (such as diabetes) and high cholesterol because of their weight.

Children do grow at different rates and there is no “correct” weight for a particular age. But if you are concerned that your child is a bit on the tubby side, talk to your doctor or the school nurse. You may wish to contact a Registered Dietitian for advice (Dieticians Association of Australia: or phone the National Office on [02] 6163-5200).

Remember to be careful how you approach weight and body shape issues with your child. Encourage active play, especially outdoors. This is important for health and helps build strong bodies

Overweight children need:

  • Sufficient food for normal growth and development.
  • Good variety of food from all the food groups every day.
  • Limit foods with added fat or sugar – these are high in energy (kilojoules) and often low in other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, fibre and protein.
  • Have treat foods occasionally – as treats!

Sandwiches – the mainstay of the lunch box

  • Choose wholegrain breads – plenty of energy, vitamins and fibre to keep them full longer.
  • Use different varieties of breads and rolls.
  • Avoid using butter or margarine – they add extra energy (kilojoules)
  • Substitute hummus or cottage cheese for spreads – they are lower in energy and higher in protein.
  • Using mashed canned tuna or salmon instead of spreads will add protein, vitamins, minerals and “good” monounsaturated fats.

Simple fillings/spreads

  • Mashed egg, cheese slices (choose the reduced fat ones) and peanut butter (spread thinly) provide protein and minerals.
  • Marmite / Vegemite are low in energy but have lots of vitamins, minerals and flavour.
  • Salad fillings (use low fat or no dressing) and add a little shaved ham or chicken or cold meat or canned tuna or salmon for flavour and protein.

Top Tips

  • Keep portions small – lots of little separately wrapped items looks like more.
  • Avoid juices, fruit drinks, cordials and soft drinks – water and milk are the best. Diet drinks have very low kilojoules (energy), but are not recommended for children to have regularly.
  • Restrict the number of biscuits, cakes and cookies - these should be as a treat – one medium or two small per day maximum.
  • Avoid crisps or other packaged snack foods – these are usually high in fat and/or sugar.
  • Do not replace high sugar/high fat foods with diet foods – these are not recommended for children to use regularly and may encourage the desire for sweet/fatty foods. (This does not apply for children who are under medical supervision and have been recommended to use these foods).