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Health & Parenting

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Good Eats for School-Age Kids

How you feed your kid now can inspire healthy eating habits for a lifetime.

Foster a Healthy Weight

Serve healthy foods in the suggested amounts, and let your child take it from there. Monitoring every morsel out of concern for a child's weight could encourage an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia later on in life.

Allowing kids to eat when they are hungry and stop when full is the key to lifelong weight control. Using food to bribe, punish, or reward encourages a child to ignore hunger cues. Buy your children a book or small toy instead of an ice-cream cone when you want to show them you are pleased, says Ostrowe.

Even better, take a walk or bike ride with your son or daughter. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, children need 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Many youngsters don't come close.

Television and computer games are partly to blame for kids' sedentary habits. Limiting screen time goes a long way toward good health. Studies show that children who watch less than two hours of television daily are more likely to be physically active and have a better diet than kids who watch more, Ostrowe tells WebMD.

Inadequate physical activity and excess calorie consumption, particularly from the high-fat and sugar-laden foods kids favor, add up to extra body fat that a school-aged child may never lose. A study in the British Medical Journal illustrates the importance of establishing habits that encourage a healthy weight at a young age. Researchers who tracked nearly 6,000 British adolescents for five years found that if a child was overweight by age 11, he was likely to be so at age 15, too. Many overweight teens go on to become overweight adults.

Build Strong Bones

Foods such as sweetened soft drinks, french fries, and candy are usually to blame for the extra calories that result in overweight. To make matters worse, these choices take the place of more nutritious foods. For example, children who drink more soft drinks, such as soda and sports beverages, drink less milk, says Ostrowe.

Excluding calcium-rich beverages such as milk leads to a shortfall in calcium and vitamin D at a time when your child needs more than ever.

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