Should I count calories for my children?

You can’t read the news without seeing that obesity in children has reached epidemic levels. In a study undertaken in November 2016, childhood obesity among 4-5 year olds hit 9.3%, rising slightly on the year before.

Lots needs to be done to tackle the problem of obesity in childhood, such as more restrictions on junk food advertising and encouraging more physical activity, but should counting calories be something to do for children?

In a word, no.

If you are concerned that your child may be overweight, it can be helpful to track what your child is eating, but more to make sure that they are getting all of the nutrients that they should be.

Keeping a food diary can help you to see what your child is actually eating against a healthy diet.

Worries that your toddler is ‘a bit chubby’ should not be a concern! Making sure that they eat a balanced diet with a healthy dose of exercise will usually mean that your child is consuming and burning what they should do. They are still growing and learning so much on a daily basis, and they need lots of lovely energy to do that.

Restricting any food groups (other than those high in sugar or fat) will lead to lower energy levels, which can be dangerous to your child’s development, and also lead to a lot of “I’m hungry” whinging!

So swap sweet foods such as biscuits and cakes for low salt, low sugar and more wholesome alternatives such as fresh smoothies packed full of fruit and veggies to keep your little ones topped up.

Of course, the odd treat here and there is allowed too, as long as these remain extras and are not substitutes for your child’s main food.

This is a broad guideline of a child’s calorific needs:

Never let your kids calories count – it’s not necessary! But a broad guide is this…​

1 -3: 1,230 for boys, 1,165 for girls
4 -6: 1,715 for boys, 1,545 for girls
7 -10: 1,970 for boys, 1,740 for girls
11 -12: 2,200 for boys, 1,845 for girls

Find out more about being food smart at Change 4 Life .

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