BMIs for Kids Tracking Their Growth

Growth charts-using the Body Mass Index (BMI) designed for children ages two and over, and teens-track growth, and a child's or a teen's weight in relation to height. These charts are used to assess whether a child may be underweight, at risk for overweight, or overweight. As importantly, the BMI charts assure parents and kids that there's a wide range of "normal." A muscular kid isn't necessarily fat, and a slim kid isn't necessarily underweight. They're simply different.

As children mature, it's normal for their body fat to change. Each child's growth clock, body size, and shape are individual; girls and boys differ, too. Some kids plump up before puberty to prepare for their next rapid growth spurt. Remember: Your child will likely grow as one of his or her parents did at the same age.

As a parent, you, with your healthcare provider, can use these charts to help track your child's growth. Be aware that even the extremes-5th percentile or 95th percentile-don't necessarily mean your child is underweight or overweight. Let your physician make that determination, using additional measures. See the Appendices for the Growth Charts with Body Mass Index for Age Percentiles for Boys and for Girls, 2 to 20 Years.

sium, magnesium, vitamin E, and fiber as nutrients that may be low enough among children for concern. Zinc, important for growth, and iron may be issues for some children, too.

With a day's worth of meals and snacks that follow MyPyramid guidelines, they can consume enough of these nutrients. For example, consuming two to three cups of milk or an equivalent supplies enough calcium, and eating more whole fruit, vegetables, and whole-grain foods helps kids eat more fiber. See Pyramid Power for Kids in this chapter.

Many children consume more calories than their bodies use—especially inactive kids. What foods deliver their excess calories? Perhaps too many energy-dense foods, "too big" portions, or poorly chosen snack and snack drinks. "Weighty Problems for Children" on page 418 addresses this issue.

The calorie sources are an issue, too. Regarding carbohydrates, children need to avoid too many foods and drinks with added sugars. The more foods eaten with a lot of added sugars, the harder it is to consume enough nutrients without gaining weight. Another "carb" issue: preventing cavities. Refer to "Your Smile: Carbohydrates and Oral Health" in chapter 5. For advice about fat intake for children, refer to "Fat Facts for Kids" on page 405.

Growth. Children age six to twelve years grow about 2 inches per year. This represents a weight gain of about 5 pounds yearly. To look at it another way, children grow 1 to 2 feet and almost double their weight during these years.

Before you compare your child with another, remember that even in this period of steady growth, children's body sizes, shapes, and growth patterns vary. Most children grow in a pattern that's more like a parent than an unrelated friend. (Get out your family photo album for a visual memory.) "BMIs for Kids: Tracking Their Growth" in this chapter helps you look at your child's growth pattern.

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