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Raising Fit Kids: Healthy Nurtition, Exercise, and Weight

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Plan for a Healthy Diet continued...

Your family healthy eating plan should include specifics on what you want to do -- such as eat more fruit and fewer fries -- and how you will track your progress and reward it, Hoefs says.

Keeping a chart and checking off the action -- such as "I ate fruit today" -- works well, even with adults. Simply seeing the checkmark reinforces that you followed through.

Depending on your family’s preference, you can make the healthy eating transition competitive or cooperative. Either way, Hoefs says, focus on the upsides of why you are making these changes. For example, point out to your teen that he is not feeling a ''sugar crash" after drinking milk rather than soda.  

What to Eat? Make It Fun

Healthy eating doesn't have to be boring. The trick is to make it fun and interesting -- and age-appropriate.

Preschoolers: Make sandwiches interesting. Cut whole wheat bread into a star or heart before filling it with turkey or cheese, Beach says.  "Get a big whole wheat pretzel and wrap your turkey around that. It's the same as a sandwich, but looks more fun."

Elementary or middle-schoolers:  Involve them in the food planning, purchasing, and preparing process, says Amy Jamieson-Petonic, RD, director of coaching at The Cleveland Clinic. "Take them to the store or farmers' market. Get them involved in buying healthy foods and have them help you prepare them."

Teens: Focus on how healthier choices will make them perform better at extracurricular activities, such as athletics, a musical production, or math club. Beach says it's a strategy that can be helpful if a teen is trying to lose weight.  For example, if your teen loves soccer but is also working toward a weight loss goal, talk about what types of healthy foods he can choose to boost his endurance for soccer games rather than only restricting foods. Talk about healthy options in a way that makes them relevant to helping your teen today rather than following nutrition rules for some far-off goal.

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