Thursday, 21 November 2013 11:20

Should Kids Be On Diets

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Should Children Be Dieting?




Erica is 13 years old and has noticed that her body is changing. She has seen significant weight gain over the last 18 months and is having difficulty maintaining a constant weight. Erica is thinking of going on a diet to help her lose some weight.


Erica is not alone with up to 90% of teenage girls aged 12-17 on some kind of diet or have been on a diet at some point in their life (Katzer et al, 2008). A diet as defined in most dictionaries is the food that you consume on a daily basis. The word diet does have a darker side though as it also defines weight loss through a reduction in the amount of calories you can consume each day.


Dieting to lose weight is not something that kids should be doing. Dieting places unrealistic expectations on what you eat and what your body needs to function correctly. The dieting premise argues that as you eat fewer calories than what your body requires, you will begin to use fat as an energy source and thus you lose weight. The primary concern with this premise is that kids tend to diet on the wrong foods. When you reduce your calories by skipping meals or eating less, you are reducing the nutrient value your body requires to function properly. This can have adverse affects on muscle and bone development as you body hits growth spurts during puberty. It can also lead to more serious consequences like bulimia or anorexia.


It is important to understand that there is no one body shape that is perfect. Every body shape is different and grows at different levels. Some children have larger frames than other children and will never change the skeletal structure of that frame. This is due to the physiological make-up of your body. Your organ density, bone structure and genetic make-up all contribute to your body shape and define how your body is going to look. This can be confronting for some children but the reality is that you can create a fit and healthy body by eating the right food and exercising correctly.


If you are concerned about your weight you can perform a small test that calculates your Body Mass Index. Your Body Mass Index (BMI) calculates whether you are overweight or not. You can download the Smash! Fit for Kids application on android, apple, windows and blackberry devices from which will calculate your BMI score for you.


Diets that You Should Avoid


Open any teen magazine and you are bombarded with the new diet that all the celebrities are now trying. The reality is that these diets are not good for you in the long run. Most of these diets starve your body of important nutrients needed for your body to function correctly. Other types of diets cut the calorie level so low that you always feel tired and have no energy. This can affect your mood, your relationships with others and your motivation to think and perform at your highest level.


Some of the most dangerous diets are the ones that only focus on one type of food like the ’lemon diet’ or the ‘cabbage diet’. These diets cause more harm than good because they are unrealistic and very difficult to maintain. Most of the time you just bounce back to your normal weight because your body stores energy as it realises that these diets are attempts to starve yourself of vital nutrients and calories.


What you should be doing


Achieving successful weight control is all about building a healthy relationship with food and physical activity. To develop this relationship you are not expected to eat chicken and vegetables 3 times a day and exercise 7 days a week. It is about finding a balance, understanding how many calories you can eat per day and participating in a variety of different physical activity programs. For example the Smash! Fit for Kids application will tell you how many calories you need to be eating each day depending on how physical you are. Physical activity isn’t just about running and participating in organised sport. Physical activity can be as simple as helping your mum or dad in the garden or vacuuming the house or hanging the clothes on the line.


When choosing the foods that you are going to eat, try and eat a variety of different foods from the following food groups:

  • fruits and vegetables
  • milk and dairy products
  • meat, nuts, and other protein-rich foods
  • grains, especially whole-grain foods, such as whole-grain breads and cereals

This will ensure that your body receives the right nutrients necessary for healthy growth and development. Work on eating the right foods, doing some form of physical activity each day and not eating to many calories for your body and you will never have to diet or try and lose weight quickly again.





Katzer, L, and Bradshaw, A, and Horwath, C, and Gray, A, and O'Brien, S and Joyce, J (2008). Evaluation of 'non-dieting', stress reduction program for overweight women: a randomised trial. American Journal of Health Promotion, 22,  264-74.

Read 3986 times Last modified on Friday, 07 March 2014 02:54

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