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Dietitians Dish: Make healthy eating, exercise family affair

By By Susan Sizemore
Nov. 13, 2012 at 5:13 a.m.

Susan Sizemore

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. Obesity is causing a broad range of health problems, such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels. The psychological effects on children are enormous. Obese children are more prone to low self-esteem, negative body image and depression.

If you're concerned with your child being at a healthy weight or developing healthy eating habits, the first step is to talk to your family doctor or a registered dietitian. Your health care professional will help you identify if your child is overweight and establish a goal for a healthy weight.

The key to keeping children at a healthy weight is a whole family approach. Make healthy eating and exercise a family affair. Family is a major part of every child's life. Research shows children are more willing to eat healthy foods and be active if they see their parent or other family members doing these things first. Think of it this way: Your child will learn from example, and healthy eating and activity is more fun when the entire family participates. Everyone will benefit from the healthier lifestyle.

Take this Healthy Habit Quiz to identify areas where your family may want to make changes. Do you and your family:

Have regularly scheduled mealtimes at home?

Eat meals together at least once a day?

Plan snacks?

Plan and prepare meals together once a day?

Try to make mealtime enjoyable?

Avoid making everyone eat everything on their plates?

Avoid using food to punish or reward?

Enjoy physical activities two to three times a week?

If you answered yes to these questions, your family is on the right track. If not, your family can use these questions as a guide to move toward healthier habits.

Here are some tips on making the most of having a healthier family:

Consider developing a regular mealtime schedule where eating is done at regular intervals. Without a schedule, kids tend to snack more.

Plan meals ahead of time. Meals tend to be healthier, if planned.

Decide on two or three specific goals to make small changes in eating and physical activity.

Remember, your child learns by example. Model by making half your plate fruits and vegetables. Have two fruits and two to three vegetables a day.

Use guidelines from mypyramid.gov.

Source: If your Child is Overweight: A Guide for Parents, 3rd Ed. American Dietetic Association. Available at eatright.org.

Susan Sizemore is a registered and licensed dietitian at DeTar Health care Systems. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.

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