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What is a Healthy Weight for Children and Teens?

What is a Healthy Weight for Children and Teens?


Determining a child's healthy weight is critical since early treatment of weight issues can save a child from a lifetime of health problems. Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to gauge a healthy weight based on weight and height. For children and teens, BMI is age and sex-specific and is often referred to as BMI-for-age.

This number is a reliable indicator of the amount of body fat and is used as a screening tool to identify possible weight problems for children. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the use of BMI to screen for overweight and obesity in children beginning at 2 years old.

In order to determine a healthy weight for children and teens, the BMI number is plotted on the CDC BMI-for-age boy and girl growth charts to obtain a percentile ranking. A percentile ranking is the most commonly used indicator in assessing the growth patterns of children.

The percentile indicates the relative position of the child's BMI number among children of the same sex and age. The growth charts show the weight status categories used with children and teens, which are: underweight, healthy weight, overweight, and obese.

Shown below are the BMI-for-age weight categories, along with their corresponding percentiles:

  • Underweight - Less than 5th percentile
  • Healthy weight - 5th percentile to less than the 85th percentile
  • Overweight - 85th to less than the 95th percentile
  • Obese - Equal to or greater than the 95th percentile

Children and teens that maintain a healthy lifestyle maintain a healthy weight. A healthy lifestyle includes exercising, limiting the amount of sedentary activities, monitoring food portions, eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, and not skipping breakfast.

Use DocShop's BMI calculator to determine your body mass index and find out which category you fit into.

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