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It may sound simple, but the key to preventing childhood obesity is to manage the amount of calories that go in and to increase the amount of calories that are used up with exercise. Easier said than done, however.
Whether your child is overweight or not, we have tips to start teaching about eating right and living well.
Let your kids lead. Don’t just tell your kids how to eat right and live well. Kids tend to embrace change more if they have some say in it. Empower them to make their own healthy choices. One way is to encourage them to be part of childhood obesity prevention efforts. Learn more about the kid-led movement at empower ME.
Make family dinners a priority. Families that sit down together for dinner several nights a week are more likely to adopt healthy eating habits and behavior. They also do better in school.
Make food fun. Involve your children in meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking. Make funny faces out of veggie sticks. Give your child several healthy choices and let him or her plan dinner. Use pretzels to make fruit or veggie sculptures.
Follow the 5-2-1-0 rule. It’s a simple formula (created by Let's Go!, a childhood obesity prevention program) that parents can follow to try to get kids to eat right and exercise more.5 – Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies per day 2 – Spend less than 2 hours a day in front of screens 1 – Spend at least 1 hour per day doing something active 0 – Limit sweetened drinks (to none each day) and drink more water and low-fat milk
Be a role model. Make an effort to eat right and get exercise, and your kids will notice. Don’t just tell your kids to eat healthy snacks, have one yourself to stress that you are serious about being healthy.
Avoid portion distortion. Our portion sizes have grown increasingly larger over time. Use smaller plates and bowls. We’re used to filling our plates, but that’s often far more food and calories than we actually need.
Make school healthy. Your child spends much of the day at school. Talk to your principal or Parent/Teacher Organization about how the school can become a healthier environment. Learn more about the Healthy Schools Program from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
Ask for help. Talk to your child’s doctor, school nurse or PE teacher. A dietitian can help you create healthy meal plans. Many hospitals offer weight management programs for kids. Many YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs offer helpful programs and classes too.
No one is perfect. Not everything that goes into your mouth is going to be whole grain, homemade or 100% nutritious. That’s OK: show your kids how to have a healthy relationship with food by remembering moderation and eating right throughout the day.
How do you keep your family healthy? Log in to let us know in the comments below.
Originally published: August 19, 2015; Revised 2019
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