Kurbo Review: A Weight Loss App for Kids & Teens

September 11, 2019   16 Comments

This Kurbo review is going to discuss why a Weight Watchers app for a kid may not be a great idea.

Kurbo reviews

WW wants that kid up there to put the ice cream DOWN :)

I have been writing about WW (formerly Weight Watchers) for years - for example: Not Losing Weight on Weight Watchers Freestyle.

One result that is clear to me is that there is much we don’t know about how to lose weight. The research is even thinner when we look at dieting in children but this didn’t stop WW from developing Kurbo.

I am sure that you all know this but just in case you forgot - children should be gaining weight because they are growing. This fact makes it far more difficult to understand and change the trajectory when a child becomes obese.

Usually the child’s doctor will bring up a child’s weight gain (if that weight gain is outside the realm of normal) and discuss the factors that my contribute. The doctor may refer the family to a registered dietitian nutritionist for further guidance.

WW wants you to take matters into your own hands with their App as they have decided that a 85% Body Mass Index means indicates that you need it. You can pay $69 per month for a coach.

They refer parents to the website to calculate the child’s BMI in case you don’t know it. The CDC states that a BMI of 95% (not 85%) is considered potentially obese in children.

From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC.GOV) site:

For children and teens, Body Mass Index is not a diagnostic tool and is used to screen for potential weight and health-related issues.

In other words, just because you have a high BMI it does not mean that you need to lose weight. You can’t self diagnose or diagnose your child with a weight problem based on BMI. A trained professional needs to evaluate your child further to determine if your child has a weight problem.

Even though I don’t agree with the premise of Kurbo, I decided to review it to see if it had some helpful aspects. I logged in and started to track my food for the day to see how it works.

The stoplight analogy is what they use to help the child understand what he/she should be eating. Green is go for it, yellow is moderate, and red should be limited.

Peanut butter??? How is it possible that peanut butter is a red just like ice cream or a candy bar? Peanut butter is extremely nutritious. I get that you don’t want to eat a whole jar but I wouldn’t want my kid worried about how much peanut butter she eats.

Cheese??? Cheese has a high percentage calcium for growing bones. I see that Cheese Sticks are yellow but how is that different from cheese? So many questions!!!

Kurbo has advice if you want to feed your kids cheese in their lunch box. From Kurbo:

Instead of grilled cheese on white bread pack a light quesadilla: take a small whole wheat or corn tortilla and sprinkle it with shredded light cheese. Melt it in the microwave and add a small cup of fresh tomato salsa on the side!

Light cheese for children? Why not just make a smaller grilled cheese on whole wheat bread with shredded regular cheese? Why aren’t we talking about portion sizes of high calorie healthy food?

Is Kurbo a low-fat diet and has that been tested to help children lose weight and at the same time develop normally? I looked for a research paper on this app and couldn’t find one.

But, my concerns about the science behind the app are not the most serious. A group of health professionals that work with eating disorders started a petition and a website - Wake Up Weight Watchers:

According to doctors, adolescence is a critical period of development and a window of vulnerability during which eating disorders can develop. Pediatric eating disorders are more common than type 2 diabetes. In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised doctors and families to steer clear of weight talk, and instead focus on emphasizing healthy lifestyles.

WW the decision to launch this app is dangerous, irresponsible and immoral. It is time for you to put human lives over profit. You must pull this app and save thousands of children from developing and supporting life altering eating disorders that will eventually kill some of them.

WW says that there is research that shows that kids who use the app do not develop eating disorders but it isn’t hard to imagine how a child might start to limit food intake as a response to the app.

I have been writing Snack Girl for 10 years now as a resource for families to help them eat healthier. Let’s focus on healthy eating and positive lifestyle changes with our children and stay away from demonizing food.

What do you think of Kurbo? Would you use it with your child or teen? Please share.

Other posts you might like:

Not Losing Weight on Weight Watchers Freestyle

Not Losing Weight on Weight Watchers Freestyle

Are you not losing weight on Weight Watchers Freestyle? I hear you!...

Get Free Email Updates! Yes please!


Thank you.

I'm torn on this. I like the idea of using an app or technology to teach kids about healthy eating. I think that WW is going about it the wrong way. I like the stoplight metaphor, but I think it might give kids the wrong idea about certain foods. I think there is a better way to do it. Thanks for this!

I have a friend whose granddaughter is 6 years old and has fatty liver disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol and is very heavy for a little girl. Her doctor is recommended an eating program such as Kurbo because it it teaching them healthy food not focusing on chicken nuggets, fries, cookies and candy. I just wish there was something like this when I was younger so I didn't turn to diet pills to lose weight and make myself sick

I like Dr. Greger’s app, the daily dozen. It focuses on healthy food. It would be great if he made one for kids sizes.

I think the problem isn't that Kurbo is a terrible app or concept - but that if it is used without a doctor or RD's supervision - it could go very wrong and cause more problems than it solves.

You really don't like you? Presenting only one-sided reviews is certainly your right...but leaving out the positive opinions from those working with child obesity to force a conclusion is irresponsible. We are in a crisis situation with health and weight in this country. Cheese and peanut butter are not the best sources of protein.Some peanut butter brands have tons of added sugar, salt, and preservatives. The difference between full fat cheese and cheese sticks is FAT content. WW is about making lifestyle changes and choices. Kids like technology- with an app that can empower them to make better choices and education encourage health and wellness maybe we can stop the obesity epidemic. I do not work for WW, I think the weight/health crisis in children- that leads to unhealthy overweight adults- is something that needs to be addressed, not continued to be ignored. Encouraging healthier choices is demonizing food? Really?!?

@Cynthia - Thank you for your comment! I do like WW and I think that it is an excellent program for adults to lose weight - especially since the change to zero points for fruits and vegetables. I am wary of kids using technology for losing weight as it is a delicate balance when they re still growing.

The Standard American Diet (SAD) is killing us and spreading globally as well. How Not To Die, by Dr Michael Greger has the balance of peer reviewed science to explain. A good place to start, and, a free evidence-based resource. His Daily Dozen app is great too. He and many doctors have the answers to much that is killing us and why. I would be very concerned with an obese child. Unfortuneately nutrition is not emphasized in medical school.

I work in the food industry and believe we need to take more responsibility for the way we market food to children. It should not have to be up to CHILDREN to monitor their intake with an app. We need to help parents make informed choices for their families, not leave it up to kids to deny themselves things we stick in their faces on grocery store displays.

Thank you for speaking out!

@Cynthia, if you read the article again I am sure you will find the answers you say you are looking for. Snack Girl is qualified and well aware of the nutritious qualities of food.

It is not safe or healthy to make children believe that any food is "evil red light food" and must be avoided at all costs. Children are in their formative years and an app like this that is obviously designed to "hook 'em young" into Weight Watchers (in this case - it could be another company) with an aim to getting nearly $70 a month from parents worried by its misleading information is more criminal than helpful.

Childhood nutrition is important, and there are good (and free!) resources out there to help. This is a marketing tool and should be stopped before it gives kids anorexia.

Thank you Snack Girl for all that you do! You have a lot of resources for children here. For myself I agree on smaller portion sizes, I believe that would have helped me when I was a child too young to know what was the proper amount.

I'm torn about this as well. I think one of the problems we aren't addressing is parents who are clueless about nutrition. I have family members who think they are eating healthy if they eat chicken wings (chicken is good for you) and chips with spinach dip (spinach is a vegetable, right?). Children need guidance and education so they can learn to make good choices. Unfortunately, many have parents who can't or don't give that guidance and in many cases, are morbidly obese themselves. Could an app like this help? Maybe. Is it the ideal way to teach kids? Probably not.

Oh my gosh this is horrifying. Is WW trying to give kids food complexes for the rest of their lives??? Yikes!! Plus - KIDS NEED FAT!!! Sheesh. Healthy fats, obviously. The problem causing childhood obesity is all the processed crap we eat. WW should develop an app that promotes eating REAL food.

Cheese and peanut butter are not great sources of protein. The amounts needed to compare in protein to as an example meat are ridiculous in size and fat.…

My 12 year old daughter did Kurbo this year. WW did not develop the Kurbo app. It is based on Stanford’s research & pediatric weight control program. She did 3 months which was a better value than $69/month. She was matched with a coach & they face timed weekly. She was then sent an email highlighting what was discussed & the next week’s goals. She could also email or text her coach any time. Kurbo had a guide we read at the start & they sent informational emails. The stoplight system made us think about choices & opened up many conversations about those choices. We discussed with her coach why some foods that seemed healthier, like peanut butter & raisins, were reds. Some reds are healthier & a better choice than others. Time was spent talking about portions, navigating social situations & fun ways to be active (a challenge in the winter). My daughter had a wonderful coach & we both learned. Foods were not demonized & red foods are allowed daily. It also took me away from being the bad food cop & the tension it causes. You have to remember this is a program for kids that don’t have the nutrition knowledge of adults. In the past we have also seen hospital associated RDs that were recommended by doctors. Those visits were wasted time & money. My daughter got a lot more out of the Kurbo program & asked that I respond to this review.

Lynn...thank you (and your daughter) for speaking up. Knowledge is power... and it sounds like you used Kurbo as a tool that empowered your daughter to make better, healthier choices!

Thank you for your comment Lynne. Very helpful and good to know!

Add a comment:


(required, never published)

© 2024