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10 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today for Kids' Weight Loss and Fitness

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Kids' weight loss requires a commitment from the whole family. It will be much easier for your child to accept-maybe even embrace-changes to his eating habits and activity level if he's not going it alone.

These recommendations for kids' weight loss apply equally well to families who want to prevent obesity. Everyone can benefit from better nutrition and more physical activity.

1. Spend an hour a day moving.

Help kids fit in at least 60 minutes of fitness every day (for weight loss and maintenance). That might mean 20 minutes walking to and from school, 15 minutes of physical play at recess, and 25 minutes of basketball, either informally or at a practice with teammates. Make sure your child has the gear he needs to have fun and be safe (baseball mitt, bike helmet, etc.), but remember there are lots of ways to be active that require little or no equipment.

2. Stock up on fruits and vegetables.

Kids weight loss and nutrition: eating watermelon
Catherine Holecko
Encourage your child to eat five or more servings a day. This helps crowd out less nutritious choices and gives your child lots of vitamins and antioxidants. Try the "rainbow challenge": How many different colors of fruits and veggies can he eat in a day? A week?

3. Be a role model to inspire kids' weight loss.

Set a good example for your child by choosing a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise yourself. You don't have to become a marathon runner overnight, but adding a walk after dinner or a yoga class in the morning helps a lot. Challenge yourself to use your car less and your bike (or your feet) more.

4. Cut out beverages sweetened with sugar.

Swap soda for water, low-fat milk, or juice (but limit juice to 4 to 8 ounces a day, since it contains natural sugars and lots of calories).

5. Limit screen time.

Shut off the TV set (or computer, or video game console) after a max of two hours a day. This frees up time for more physical activity and can contribute to kids' weight loss.

6. Eat breakfast every day.

This helps your child avoid snacking on empty calories because she's "sooooo hungry." Provide a morning meal that includes whole grains, fruit, and protein. Skipping meals doesn't promote weight loss, for kids or adults!

7. Get a good night's sleep.

Sufficient, restful sleep can actually help prevent weight gain in kids and adults. Plus, staying at a healthy weight and getting enough daily exercise can improve sleep. So make sure everyone in your home is snoozing soundly each night.

8. Eat at home.

Yes, you can make healthy choices at restaurants and even your favorite fast-food spot, but it's a lot easier to control your family's fat and calorie intake if you prepare food at home.

9. Rethink "exercise" to make kids' weight loss more fun.

Physical activity doesn't have to mean an organized team sport or class. Housework, yardwork, and playing at the playground all get kids up and moving. So does asking them to teach you a new dance move or race you to the corner as you walk around the block.

10. Be your child's cheerleader.

Girls, especially, need lots of encouragement to be active and move their bodies. Praise kids for making small changes and for weight loss efforts, not results.
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