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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Can I put my obese son on a very low calorie diet?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • With over 25 years experience in clinical nutrition and dietetics I can help you achieve your health goals. I practice a client centered approach-I will … View Profile

    Definitely not. A very low calorie diet is usually nutritionally inadequate. It’s not going meet requirements for growth of the child. .

    Dieting in any shape or form for anyone is not recommended. Diet is something that's full of deprivation, and it’s really ultimately something you will go off in the end. So it’s all about education. It’s about educating your child to make better choices and educating the child to have better food habits.

    So, certainly there are things that you can do, definitely decreasing the sugar intake in the diet. So that can be sweet treats, certainly sugary drinks, definitely decreasing the fat intake. So that comes down to LIMITING takeaway and snack choices, and also choosing lean meats and fat reduced dairy products, and looking at portion sizes and snacking.

    Now, THESE SUGGESTIONS can be encompassed into every day regular healthy eating without putting the child on a diet, and of course the other big thing is exercise. We know that the more screen time a child has, the more trouble they have managing their weight. Really the recommendation for screen time is less than an hour a day.


  • Chris Fonda

    Dietitian, Nutritionist, Sports Dietitian

    As an Accredited Sports Dietitian, APD and athlete (springboard diver), Chris has both professional and personal experience in sport at the sub-elite and elite level.Chris … View Profile

    ABSOLUTELY NOT! As Sally has stated, if you put your son on a very low calorie diet (VLCD) it WILL affect his growth and development. It sounds like you need some help in determining what is needed in a healthy diet am I correct? I would suggest you book yourself and your son in to see an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) as soon as you can. APD's are able to provide you with the education and tools needed to make healthy long-term diet and lifestyle changes to help prevent chronic diseases such as obesity.

    In general LIMIT the intake of highly processed, high fat and sugary foods such as cakes, biscuits, soft drinks, pies, pasties, coridals, and takeaway foods and replace them with foods from the 5 food groups. Whole-grain breads, cereals, pastas and rice; fruit; vegetables; low fat dairy; and lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs and alternatives such as beans and lentils. Also make sure your son get's plenty of opportunity to exercise. Why not join up with your local sporting club or get him out in the local playground.

    To find an APD near you head to For more healthy food ideas you may like to visit where you can find nutritional information, recipes and tips on how to start a healthy diet.

  • Mel Haynes


    Chef, Scientist and Nutritionist. I specialise culinary nutrition and disease prevention with plant based diets. View Profile

    This question is difficult to answer without knowing how overweight the child is, and without knowing how old he is. I would usually not recommend children be put on a low calorie diet. The problem with a low calorie diet is that they will really struggle to meet their vitamin and nutrient needs within those small amount of kilojoules. So this means that they're missing out on the vitamins and minerals and other things that they need that are essential for their growth and development.

    What I would suggest is that they certainly cut back on all of those extra snack-y, treat foods and swap those out for healthier fruits and vegetables, so taking out full-cream dairy and replacing it with skim dairy, taking out crackers and pastas and noodles and replacing those with steamed veggies and vegetable croutons, and fresh fruit salad instead of ice cream.

    I'd have a look and see whether or not some of those changes would have an impact on the child's weight and whether or not that was sort of correcting his growth patterns. I would be more interested in corrected the child's growth pattern to get them more towards a normal weight for his age instead of getting him to lose weight and to get him on track faster.

  • Ashleigh is an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD, AN) and registered with the Dietitian's Association of Australia with experience in both clinical and private practice. Ashleigh's … View Profile

    A very low calorie diet (VLCD) does not provide all the essential nutrients required for growth and development. During this time in their life, we should be focusing on engaging children in healthy eating behaviours and providing them with wholesome nourishing food. Limit foods high in saturated fat and sugar ie. snack foods, take away, soft drink; and increase intake of the core food groups. It is important to get a balance of all of the essential nutrients, I would recommend you refer to the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating for Children for recommended serves and portion sizes (please see attached link). Engaging in regular physical activity is also essential to facilitate weight loss and development as well as for social and mental wellbeing - Go 4 Fun may be an appropriate program.

    For further advice, I would recommend you seek guidance from an Accredited Practising Dietitian to tailor to your sons personal needs.

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