Revised Guide From Academy Provides Parents New Strategies for Addressing Overweight Children

August 31, 2016

CHICAGO – As National Childhood Obesity Month begins in September, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages families and their children to make healthier choices. Parents who have noticed their children putting on a few extra pounds may be tempted to scold them or hide treats, but there is a better way of helping children, according to the Academy's updated If Your Child Is Overweight: A Guide for Parents (4th ed.).

"This book focuses on building relationships and working together," says author and registered dietitian nutritionist Sue Kosharek. "This is not a parent versus child issue, one where the parent makes all the decisions. It involves listening to each other, being heard, making compromises and accepting imperfection."

Kosharek warns that many common weight loss treatments result in the child feeling alienated, which further compounds the issue of their being overweight.

The updated guide provides registered dietitian nutritionists and parents of children ages 4 to 12 with practical tips for improving the eating and lifestyle habits for the entire family, based on the recently released 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It includes sample menus and shows readers how to:

  • Identify and overcome family weight loss challenges
  • Make family-centered changes
  • Enjoy physical activities together
  • Prepare healthy meals and snacks
  • Make smart choices when dining out
  • Choose a weight management program geared to children.

When children become overweight, the Academy's guide indicates they can increase their risk for diabetes, cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol, tryglycerides (fats in the blood stream), and stroke, and it can also cause bone and joint problems and breathing problems such as sleep apnea or asthma.

In a population-based study of 5- to 17-year-olds published by the Journal of Pediatrics, 70% of obese youth possessed at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

The Academy's position paper, "Interventions for the Prevention and Treatment of Pediatric Overweight and Obesity," states comprehensive interventions including diet, physical activity, behavioral counseling and parent or caregiver engagement are recommended for weight management. To address weight issues for children between 2 and 5, set weight goals and ensure parental or caregiver involvement. For older children, the family should consider getting an evaluation to determine the best course of treatment, such as more intensive therapies, structured nutrition prescriptions or bariatric surgery.

"It is never too early to start establishing a healthy home environment around food and nutrition, but keep in mind that every day is a new day to create the right environment," said registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy spokesperson Angela Lemond. "The single best thing you can do is to model the behaviors you want to see in your children."

If Your Child Is Overweight: A Guide for Parents guide is available to the public from the Academy's website for $12.95 as a single copy or as a 10-pack for $64.95. Members of the Academy can purchase the guide at a discounted rate.

More information on childhood obesity can be found on this infographic created by the Academy.

Media can schedule an interview with Kosharek or an Academy spokesperson by emailing    


The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation's health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy at