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Why is it recommended that overweight children not follow a low-calorie diet?

Dieting generally seems like a scary and boring idea for most. In reality, everyone follows a “diet,” it is just that diet consists of burgers and Cheetos. We gain wisdom in our adult years, and eventually, some of us begin to take a healthier approach to eat.
obese children diabetes

The late benefits of an early healthy lifestyle

A healthy diet in your adult years is exceptionally beneficial to your health and wallet. It is easy to prevent a multitude of disease early and later in life just by eating right. That is why the best way to produce these positive habits is to instill them at an early age. However, what happens if it is too late. Sometimes children get caught up in the tangled web of obesity. Should they follow a strict diet? No. However, why is it recommended that overweight children not follow a low-calorie diet? Let’s start at the beginning.

What age group is considered a “child”?

A child age will range from 2 to 18, young than two would be considered infancy and over 18 would legally be an adult. Albeit that is the case, women do not stop growing until the age of 25. In the case of men, many do not stop growing until the age of 28! That being said, we are concentrating on the diet of children between the ages of 2 through 18. Specifically, we want to discuss the eating patterns of children.

What is the MyPyramid chart?

The MyPyramid chart is a chart used by the USDA/FNS to give a general overview of foods to eat depending on age. Let’s go over the following chart below.

“Children Ages 2 Through 18 Years
For each of the MyPyramid food groups, Table 4-1 shows the recommended amounts of food in the MyPyramid patterns and the usual mean intakes at five comparable calorie/age group levels. The basis for comparing food intake data with MyPyramid patterns and for using these age and calorie levels is presented in Chapter 3. Table 4-1 also includes data on the intake of oils and calories from discretionary solid fats and added sugars.”


Age group divides the mean daily amount of food consumed.
An analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows that the consumption of dark green vegetables, orange vegetables and legumes were low for children. This results of the study reflect the similar findings from the IOM (institution of Medicine).

Fried foods are the enemy.

The most unfortunate problem with our adolescent children in America is the consumption of fried foods. The majority of vegetables were consumed fried for most children. Sometimes parents may consider fried vegetables to be an appropriate substitute, but the amount of fat and sugar counteract any nutritional benefit that may be left.

Fruit stands king in the eyes of children

Fortunately, in America, we have an abundance of cheap fruit and children cannot say no to granular starches like pears and bananas. With that being said most children consume close to the recommended amount of fruit according to the MyPyramid. The downside to the fact is that many younger children consume their fruit intake via juice which lacks fiber and can contain a lot of added sugar.

Milk consumption is excellent but has side effects

The only food group that sufficiently met the recommended amounts was milk consumption. Unfortunately, some studies have shown that excess milk consumption can prevent nutrient absorption. In the end, we can see that the diet that many adolescents follow is not suitable for healthy growth. The fact that children follow unhealthy diets are precisely why we find ourselves potentially placing children on organic or adult based diets. Here’s the problem with that.
Dieting as a child can interfere with growth and development. Youth grow much faster in every factor of maturity. That being said, the number #1 reason for children stunted growth is a lack of caloric intake or nutritional intake.

overweight children diet

So what’s the solution?

Let’s go over this quote from the USDA study:

“Intakes of Solid Fats and Added Sugars
As shown in Table 4-1, children’s mean daily intakes of calories from solid fats and added sugars are very high. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (USDA/HHS, 2010) emphasizes the importance of reducing intakes of these ingredients in the diet of all Americans, especially children. Estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggest that, for school-age children, the highest contributors of solid fat include sandwiches such as burgers (15 percent), fried potatoes, and pizza with meat, which contributed about 6 percent each (USDA/FNS, 2008, Table C-29). By far the largest contributors to children’s intake of added sugars (45 percent of the total amount) are regular soda and noncarbonated sweetened drinks (USDA/FNS, 2008, Table C-30).”

In conclusion

The easiest way to adjust a child’s weight and prevent adverse effects on growth is to change their diet of processed foods. This method of weight loss is the same method I would suggest adults take as well. As an adult, you can amplify the progress in your health journey by following a 3-week diet or something similar.

Why is it recommended that overweight children not follow a low-calorie diet?
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Why is it recommended that overweight children not follow a low-calorie diet?
Does it go without saying that a healthy diet is suggested for growing children but why can't you put them on diets? We will explain further here.
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Brice Mansa - ISSA Certified Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach

Brice Mansa is a certified personal trainer from the ISSA. He took his knowledge from college to provide a more broad education method (blogging) to enhance the lives of thousands of people. Tired of being limited as a personal trainer in a gym with a single client, he stepped up his game. ASCVS.org is proud to host him and the team of 4 other certified personal trainers and kinesiologists. When Brice isn't training or writing he likes long walks on the beach, puppos & motorcycles. We hope you enjoy his content, tips & stories!