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Articles > Lean for life: Make childhood obesity a thing of the past

Lean for life: Make childhood obesity a thing of the past

Judy Messina

Provided by HealthMonitor

Obesity is one of biggest health concerns for America's kids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of our children carry too much weight. This obesity puts them at risk for a lifetime of serious health issues, including sleep apnea, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

In a society like ours, where fast food and sugary snacks are often the norm, parents are the first line of defense in the battle against the bulge. To help your children be lean for life, here are 10 things you can do now.

1. Walk the walk. If you want your children to eat healthy foods, you have to eat healthy foods. "When you have one set of foods for your child and another set of foods for yourself and others, it is not going to work," says Lisa Altshuler, PhD, a pediatric psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY.

2. Start early. Get your children used to healthy foods when they are very young. And don't give up! Experts say it takes at least 10 tries for kids to get used to a food. So keep serving broccoli and squash, and make it a rule that they at least take a taste.

3. Be flexible. Make sure your children eat breakfast, but don't rule out options that are healthy yet nontraditional. A bowl of brown rice and the leftover stir-fry from last night's dinner is fine since it has fiber and protein.

4. Toss high-calorie snacks. Sugary treats and drinks'even many fruit juices'pack on pounds. Don't ask your children what they want for a snack. Instead, place healthy foods'fruit, carrot sticks, celery sticks with peanut butter'where they can easily be reached.

5. Never say never. If you forbid your children from having certain foods'cookies, ice cream or potato chips, for instance'they will likely gorge on them whenever they get the chance. Instead, let your children know that these are special treats for special occasions.

6. Offer guidance. With younger children, you can say no. But with older kids, be a coach and not a traffic cop. Help your kids figure out whether they are really hungry or eating just out of boredom. If they're really hungry, suggest a piece of fruit instead of a donut.

7. Eat together. Sitting down to eat as a family keeps kids from grazing and overeating. Dinner doesn't have to be elaborate'pick up a roast chicken from the supermarket, throw some potatoes in the microwave, and make a salad or steam some frozen vegetables.

8. Let kids help. Involve your children in food preparation, including vegetables and other foods they might not immediately desire. Even the youngest child can slice mushrooms with a plastic knife. This way, says Nancy Copperman, MS, RD, director of public health initiatives at North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System, "they're smelling, touching, tasting and getting more comfortable around healthy foods."

9. Don't wait to eat. If you can, feed your children dinner at a consistent and relatively early time. An early dinner will short-circuit the usual snacking and grazing.

10. Get kids moving. Encourage physical activity, and limit time spent playing video games and watching TV. Be active as a family. Playing Frisbee in the yard, shooting some hoops or dancing around the living room can be just plain fun. It's also a good way to burn off calories and to do something where food is not involved. It's simply healthy.
Diabetes Mellitis (Type II) Obesity Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) Carrot Heart Disease Diabetes Multiple Sclerosis Hyperlipidemia Hypertension Burn

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