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How to break the cycle of childhood obesity

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Teach your kids healthy eating habits

Did you know that one in three American children are overweight or obese? According to the American Heart Association, this is nearly triple the rate in 1963. Childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking, because of the higher risk of overweight children developing chronic diseases that can shorten their life and affect the quality of their lives. We talked with Dr. Will Aguila, author of Why I Don't Lose Weight: Conquering the Cycle of Obesity, about the obesity epidemic in our kids and how parents can empower their children to eat right and maintain a healthy weight.

Teach your kids healthy eating habits6 things parents can do to keep their children from being overweight

It's true: Our children's eating habits start at home, so it us up to us parents to teach them how and what to eat. Dr. Aguila offers six easy tips to get us started.

1Be a good example

First and foremost, remember that children will imitate their parent's habits, so you are their main example.

2Take the lead

Don't depend on the school to teach your children good eating habits -- these habits begin at home.

3Avoid unhealthy food associations

Don't reward your children with food or give them treats when they are sad. This creates an association of food with emotion, which can lead to obesity.

4Teach your kids healthy cooking habits

Do include your children in preparing a healthy meal. Children love to do this. It allows you to bond with them and to teach them good eating habits.

5Advocate intuitive eating

Teach your children that they do not have to "clean the plate." Teach them how to recognize hunger and eat when they are hungry -- and that they need to stop eating when they feel satisfied.

6Let the kids plan the meals

Take your children grocery shopping with you and allow them to help you plan your meals. When you empower them in this way, they make surprisingly wise choices.

Raise your children with a healthy lifestyle

In addition to teaching your kids how to eat healthfully, Dr. Aguila stresses the importance of daily exercise. He says, "Don't forget to take your kids outside and play with them even for 15 minutes. They need activity and so do you." Another key is to praise your kids often and avoid rewarding their accomplishments with food. "Kids will eat a Happy Meal in 20 minutes and play with toy for about an hour," the doctor explains. "But the praise that you give them for something that they did will last them a lifetime!"

More ways to keep your kids healthy and fit

Childhood obesity prevention tips
Videogames that get kids off the couch
Fun outdoor activities for kid-friendly fitness

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