Obesity among children is a national health emergency. One out of every three children is overweight or obese, notes the KidsHealth website, calling attention to the poor diets and lack of physical activity that have become lifestyle habits for many families with children. Calorie counters can help a child lose excess weight by enabling her and her parents to keep track of calorie intake so she isn't consuming more than she's able to burn.
Overweight and Obesity: A Major Problem
Children are spending less time being physically active and more time in front of screens. This means that they're burning fewer calories, which leads to weight gain. Being overweight or obese increases a child's risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many overweight or obese children are socially isolated and discriminated against. Later in life, these children are at a higher risk for heart failure and stroke.
How Calorie Counters Can Help
Calorie counters essentially take the guesswork out of keeping track of how many calories a child consumes. Basic calorie counters allow you to determine how large of a portion a child has eaten and record the corresponding number of calories that portion equals. At the end of the day, a total caloric intake can be added. More advanced calorie counters also require you to input items such as activity level, age, gender, height and weight to help you determine how many calories are sufficient for your individual child. This is helpful because it will enable you create an eating plan that stays within her daily caloric guideline.
Low-Tech Calorie Counters
There are numerous calorie counting books on the market. These are tools that allow you to look up each food your child eats during the day to get an accurate calorie total based on how large the serving was. For example, "Calorie Counter," by Collins Gem, includes a large list of foods separated by food group, making it simple to find what you're looking for. A food journal is another low-tech calorie counter. As you look up the foods your child is eating, record them in the food journal. Older children can do this themselves, as well as write themselves notes about how they feel when they stay within their caloric limit for the day.
Advanced Technology Calorie Counters
Technology has taken much of the tallying and recording out of the equation when it comes to keeping track of calories. Websites such as FitDay and MyNetDiary offer free calorie counters that allow you to quickly choose the foods your child has eaten and plug them into the tracker. The website then does all of the math to give a total number of calories. Apps for smartphones are similar. The Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker app, for example, helps you identify a calorie goal for your child and choose foods that she eats from their database of options. The app keeps track of how many calories your child has left each day, as well as how many she's burning through exercise. The MyPlate Calorie Tracker, Tap and Track Calorie Counter, and Calorie Counter and Food Diary apps provide similar services.
Beyond Counting Calories
Counting calories isn't essential if your child needs to lose weight, and there are numerous other ways to accomplish a weight-loss goal. Further, dieting can be dangerous for children as it can raise the risk of eating disorders and an unhealthy relationship with food later in life. In lieu of counting calories, adopting healthy habits as a family, such as sitting down to nutritious meals together and playing outside, will teach children about appropriate lifestyle habits that can help them maintain a healthy weight.
- HealthyChildren.org: Where We Stand: Obesity Prevention
- KidsHealth: Overweight and Obesity
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Tips for Parents – Ideas to Help Children Maintain a Healthy Weight
- KidsHealth: Keeping Portions Under Control
- Baylor College of Medicine: Healthy Eating Calculator
- Calorie Counter; Collins Gem
- Fit Day: Home
- MyNetDiary: Weight Loss With MyNetDiary
- National Eating Disorders Association: kNOw Dieting: Risks and Reasons to Stop
- Weight-Control Information Network: Helping Your Overweight Child