08/15/2011 09:38 EDT | Updated 10/15/2011 05:12 EDT

Body Fat Percentage Scales for Children?

I think body fat percentage scales are a bad idea to begin with, but to target them at children bring them to a whole new level of horror.

If it's a sign of the times, it's a sign of how truly backwards we are as a society when it comes to weight management.

Scale company Tanita is now marketing a specially designed body-fat/weigh scale for children between the ages of five and 17.

Now I've blogged before about how I think body fat percentage scales are a bad idea to begin with, but to target them at children bring them to a whole new level of horror.

Five-year-olds don't need to have their body fat, or their weights measured; they need healthy food and good parental role modeling.

So instead of punishing your child by buying them a body fat percentage scale, may I suggest that if you're not already doing so you:
  • Cook healthy meals from whole ingredients for each and every meal.
  • Have sit-down family dinners each and every night (remembering they don't need to be gourmet -- kids do love peanut butter sandwiches).
  • Involve your children in meal (and school lunch) preparation.
  • Track the added sugars in your childrens' diets and try to limit to no more than 45 grams daily (remembering that some days should be exceptions too - sugar is part of childhood, it just needn't be a daily part).
  • Ensure that the only fruit they eat is actual fruit -- no juices, Roll-Ups, Chews, or mashes.
  • If they're older than two, make their milk white and skim, not brown and sugary.
  • Ensure that your children eat protein with every meal and snack, and that they start their days off with a wholesome, protein-inclusive breakfast.
  • Make restaurant meals and takeout (including supermarket prepared takeout meals) exceedingly rare events.
  • Engage your family in family-based physical activity -- weekend hikes, nightly walks, signing up for community races, landscaping, home improvement projects, lawn mowing, snow shoveling, etc.

Lastly you've got to remember that if you're worried about your kid's weights, don't put it on them. It's not their problem, it's yours, and if you think you're going to fix it by yelling at them, weighing them, shaming them, food policing them, etc., you're going to be disappointed, and your kid is going to be miserable.

If you want your kids to change the way they're living, you're going to have to change the way your whole family is living - and frankly it isn't about weight. All of those behaviours up above? It doesn't matter if your kids are heavy or thin, those strategies will benefit each and every family, though the likelihood is that if weight is an issue in your family, those changes will help far more than any scale ever could.

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, MD is known as a "nutritional watchdog" for his advocacy efforts for improved public policies regarding nutrition and obesity. He is the founder and Medical Director of the Bariatric Medical Institute, dedicated to the (nonsurgical) treatment of overweight and obesity since 2004, and his personal website, Weighty Matters, is ranked among the world's top health blogs.