Ask Dr. Marla: Is it Too Early to Put My 10-Year-Old Son on a Diet?

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Our 10-year-old son is overweight. I know he’s still growing but is it too early to put him on a diet?

Without knowing how ‘overweight’ your son is, let me give you some general guidelines. The assumption that he will outgrow the ‘baby fat’ is not true if you don’t make sure that he has a healthy approach to eating and exercise.
If your 10-year-old son is overweight, the target depends upon how much overweight he is. Mild to moderately overweight children do not usually require weight loss; they require identifying the reasons for the extra weight and then correcting them. Common reasons include skipping meals, inappropriate proportions of foods (too few vegetables and too large and frequent servings of grain and meats for example), inadequate exercise and excess snacking.
I consulted Dr. Glenn Berall, Chief of Paediatrics and a Physician Nutrition Specialist at North York General Hospital in Toronto. Neither of us recommend restrictive diets. When we talk about diets, we don’t mean a short-term fi x that is usually restrictive and not sustainable.
Rather, we recommend that children follow Canada’s Food Guide found at On this site, you and your son can explore important information for meeting his dietary needs. You can even enter some data and print off a personalized food guide. There are also links to the Healthy Active Living information. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends a daily minimum of 90 minutes activity for children. See and click on the link for Healthy Bodies for more resources.

Published March 2010

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