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Nearly one in five American children are affected by obesity, more than three and a half times the rate in 1980. A combination of unhealthy eating habits and less physical activity leaves today's kids at much higher risk for Type 2 diabetes and other associated health issues, including asthma, heart disease, severe psychological stress, and even cancer.

Preventing these health dangers and keeping kids fit, particularly during their summer months at home, requires a whole-family commitment to creating a healthy lifestyle.

"As parents, we're responsible for the type of food that is purchased, how often snacks are shared, and the priority placed on physical activity," says Dr. Janet Lazieh of Holy Name Pediatrics. "Creating healthy habits and routines for the whole family is a great way to get in better shape and have fun doing it."

Great weather and farmers markets make summer the perfect season to start a new "Eat Smart. Be Active." routine, establishing new grocery shopping habits and committing to more physical activities.

Here are 8 simple tips for keeping kids healthy:

  1. Stock the kitchen with lean meats, fruits, and vegetables, and refrain from buying any junk food like chips, crackers, cookies, candy, or other processed foods high in sugar.
  2. Take the kids to your local park at least once a week to play active games, like catch and kickball. (...and set a daily limit on screen time, especially social media.)
  3. Plan or prepare meals for the week each Sunday, and let the kids pick their favorites from a selection of healthy recipe options.
  4. Set a recurring 15-minute timer when watching TV, turning impromptu intermissions into two-minute fitness breaks – it's just enough time to have a jumping jacks or pushups competition!
  5. Keep small cups of cut up fruits with peanut butter or veggies with hummus in the fridge for easy "grab-n-go" snacks.
  6. Encourage the kids to take bike rides after lunch and make a habit of taking family strolls together after dinner.
  7. Promote the idea that there's a 20-minute wait between servings at meals… but you can always have more vegetables.
  8. Challenge everyone in the family to pick a new sport or activity for the summer, and then stick to it by joining a rec league or taking lessons at your local parks department.

Remember, the goal in creating a healthy lifestyle for your kids is to gradually add healthy habits and sustain them over time. You may get a few complaints at first, but taking a balanced approach of establishing a routine and encouraging progress can produce real results.

"We shouldn't shame our kids about their weight, but we also can't ignore the problem because there are serious, long-term health consequences," Dr. Lazieh advises. "The key is to help them eat smart and stay active… and summer vacation is a great time to start!"

Source: https://www.epa.gov/americaschildrenenvironment/health-obesity