Healthy Kids with Susie Burrell

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Lifestyle Lesson 2: Monitor your children’s growth regularly
Many young people have a significant weight problem (1 in 4 in Australia for example), yet few parents realise it – numerous studies show parents don’t seem to notice when children have weight problems until they are obese. It is easy to monitor children’s growth patterns, and it is absolutely crucial to do it so you can make sure that any weight issues a child may have don’t get out of control.


How can you tell if a child has a weight problem? Well, ideally children will follow the growth curve on which they were born. For example, if a newborn was on the 75th centile for weight at birth, ideally she (or he) will follow this pattern throughout childhood. Extreme variations from these growth curve charts is a warning sign that you need to monitor a child’s food and activity habits – for example if a child on the 90th centile for weight but only 50th for height. Here are some other telltale signs that may indicate children have a weight issue. They:

  • Wear clothes sizes 2 or more years above their age
  • Are constantly hungry and asking for food
  • Are much bigger than the other kids at school
  • Eat more food than you
  • Have waist measurements over 80 cm
  • Do not participate in any physical activity, and
  • Watch more than 3 hours of TV or sit at the computer for more than 3 hours each day.

What to do if you are concerned? The best thing you can do is see your local paediatrician for a full growth assessment. Knowing your kids’ BMI (Body Mass Index) is a starting point. The NSW Government has special website where parents can calculate a child’s BMI to see if it is in the healthy weight range. Don’t use adult BMI calculators for children.

Susie Burrell

Susie Burrell ( is a specialist Weight Management Dietitian at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. In her private practice, she balances her clinical work with writing for both print and electronic media. Susie currently has a weekly column in The Daily Telegraph’s Simply Food lift out as well as columns in Good Health & Medicine, ALPHA and Dolly magazines. She is also a regular guest on FRESH television and The Today Show.

GI Group: Centile charts show the position of a measured parameter within a statistical distribution. They do not show if that parameter is normal or abnormal. They merely show how it compares with that measurement in other individuals. They are called centiles and not per centiles. If a parameter such as height is on the 3rd centile, this means that for every 100 children of that age, 3% would be expected to be shorter and 97 taller. On the 97th centile, 97 would be shorter and 3 taller. Centile charts are very useful for plotting changing parameters such as assessing a child’s height or weight over time.