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Raising Fit Kids: Healthy Nurtition, Exercise, and Weight

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6. Never use food as a reward.

This could create weight problems in later life. Instead, reward your children with something physical and fun -- perhaps a trip to the park or a quick game of catch.

7. Sit down to family dinners at night.

If this isn't a tradition in your home, make it one. Research shows that children who eat dinners at the table with their parents have better nutrition and are less likely to get in serious trouble as teenagers. Start with one night a week, and then work up to three or four, to gradually build the habit.

8. Prepare plates in the kitchen.

You can put the right portion of each item on everyone's dinner plate, instead of offering up a food buffet or serve-yourself style. This way your children will learn to recognize healthy portion sizes. If adjusting to healthier portion sizes means smaller portions for your family, help make the switch seem less shocking by using smaller plates.

9. Give the kids some control.

Ask your children to take three bites of all the foods on their plate and give each one a grade, such as A, B, C, D, or F. When healthy foods -- especially certain vegetables -- get high marks, serve them more often. Offer the items your children don't like less frequently. This lets your children participate in decision-making. After all, dining is a family affair.

10. Consult your pediatrician.

Always talk with your child's doctor before putting your child on a weight loss diet, trying to help your child gain weight, or making any significant changes in the type of foods your child eats. Never diagnose your child as too heavy or too thin by yourself.

"It's all about gradual changes. It's not overnight, and it's an uphill battle for parents," Sothern tells WebMD. "Everything outside of the home is trying to make kids overweight. The minute they walk out of the home, there are people trying to make them eat too much and serving them too much."

The food smarts your children will learn from you can protect them for a lifetime.

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