Overweight Toddlers and Obesity

Question of the Week

A toddler playing with her mother.
Being active can help your toddler avoid becoming overweight. Photo by Tang Ming Tung/Getty Images

Q. I am wondering if my daughter is at risk for being overweight for her age? She is 17 months, 34 inches tall, and weighs 30 1/2 pounds. She is active and enjoys a wide variety of foods, including her vegetables. My husband is 6'7" and I am 5'5" so genetically I assume she has the potential to be a very tall girl. Do you have any ideas or advice about whether I should be concerned? Thank you for your time. Heather

A. She is 'overweight' for her age, but that really only means that she weighs more than most 17 month olds. Her weight puts her off the growth charts for her age.

Is Your Toddler Overweight?

That doesn't mean that she is obese or 'fat' though, because she is also very tall for her age. In fact, her height is also off the charts, and so her height and weight are fairly proportionate to each other. Again, that means that she likely isn't obese right now.

In an older child, we would simply calculate their BMI or body mass index to see if they were really overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. You can't start doing that until a child is two years old though, so it really doesn't apply to her. If she keeps growing at the same place on the growth charts, we can kind of guess at what her height and weight will be at age two and use that to calculate her BMI.

At age two, she will likely weigh about 34 pounds and be 37 inches tall.

That would give her a healthy BMI, which means that she wouldn't be considered overweight at all! Of course, if she gains more weight than that or doesn't get as tall, then the results will be different.

Also, this would be a good topic to bring up at your eighteen month well child visit with your Pediatrician.

Obesity Risk Factors

The fact that she is 'active' and 'enjoys a wide variety of foods' is very good and should help you to avoid her becoming overweight in the future.

Other things to do include not giving too much juice, remember that the AAP says to limit toddlers to just 4-6 ounces of 100 percent fruit juice, too much milk, most toddlers only need 16-24 ounces a day, and continue to offer healthy choices. See our guide to childhood obesity and nutrition for more information.

She may still be at risk for becoming overweight if either you or your husband are overweight. If that is the case, now is a good time to develop some healthy habits for the whole family, including regular exercise and a healthy diet, that she will hopefully pick up and carry through for the rest of her life.

Height Predictors

And you are right that she has the genetic potential to be fairly tall.

Using our basic height predictor, you can see that she has the genetic potential to be about 5'9" tall.