Is your child carrying some extra weight? Lots of kids are. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 17% of all children and adolescents in the U.S. are obese, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) in the 95th percentile for their age. Those excess pounds increase kids’ risk of some serious health issues, including diabetes and heart disease. Slowing down or reversing weight gain can improve kids’ health, both now and in the future. These five options can help kids achieve a healthy weight: 1. Family Health Makeover Creating a healthy environment is one of the best ways to help kids achieve a healthy weight. Instead of thinking about weight loss, think about healthy living. Take a look at the foods you and your family eat, the habits you’ve developed and the amount of activity (or inactivity) in a typical day. If you’re like most families, you’ve developed some unhealthy habits. Work together to create new, healthy ones. Get rid of the sugary snack food in your cupboards and try a new fruit each week. Instead of settling in to watch TV after supper, head out for a family bike ride. (Kids should get 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day.) Create enforceable rules for after-dinner snacking. In some households the kitchen is closed once the dinner dishes are put away. Research shows family-based health interventions are more effective for childhood weight issues than most other approaches. 2. Weight Maintenance Kids under the age of 10 should never go on a diet. According the American Academy of Pediatrics, it’s better to help kids maintain their current weight. The idea is to keep the child’s weight steady while the child grows taller; increased height plus the same weight will ultimately result in a decreased BMI. Keep your child’s weight steady by cutting back (or eliminating) sugary drinks; serving lots of fruits, veggies and lean meats instead of processed snack foods; and limiting screen time to two hours or less per day. Your child’s doctor can help you create an eating and activity plan tailored to your child and family. 3. Weight Loss Plans If your child is over the age of 10 and his BMI continues to increase despite efforts to maintain his current weight while he grows, it may be time to try a supervised weight loss plan. Some weight loss programs such as Weight Watchers and TOPS (Take Off Pound Sensibly) accept kids as young as 10, with written medical permission. Never put your child on a diet without medical guidance. Because kids are still growing and developing, they need regular intake of calories and nutrients. A doctor or qualified healthcare provider should monitor your child’s weight and health throughout any weight loss effort. 4. Pediatric Weight Management Program Kids who have a BMI greater than the 95th percentile may qualify for treatment at a specialized pediatric weight management program, available at some children’s hospitals and academic medical centers. These centers carefully assess the causes of weight gain and develop comprehensive, developmentally-appropriate weight management programs tailored to individual children and families. Your doctor can help you determine if a pediatric weight management program is a good choice for your child, and, if so, help you locate the nearest program. 5. Bariatric Surgery Weight loss surgery might sound extreme, but many doctors agree the bariatric surgery is a reasonable alternative for extremely obese teens. Weight loss surgery is not a first line option. Most surgeons won’t even consider doing weight loss surgery on a teen unless the teen has been obese for a number of years, has been unable to lose weight via other approaches and has demonstrated a clear understanding of the process and dietary commitments post-surgery. Most kids, of course, won’t require surgery to get their weight under control. Taking a few steps toward health now can go a long way towards securing a healthy future for your child.