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Raising Fit Kids: Healthy Nurtition, Exercise, and Weight

  This content is selected and controlled by WebMD's editorial staff in collaboration with Sanford Health Systems.

Rule #1 -- Start small and make changes slowly. continued...

How to do it: Need to break the fast-food cycle? Plan ahead. It is easier to eat better if there are healthy options on hand.

Make a list of the food you will need for the week. It may be easier to plan it out meal by meal. If certain nights are going to be too busy to cook, try planning out a few meals you can cook ahead of time on a day when you have extra time. Have more time on Tuesday? Cook extra chicken breasts you can cut up and throw on lettuce and pre-cut veggies Wednesday night for fast, no-cook salads.

Or make a double batch of your favorite healthy dishes on nights you have time. Then, stash them in the freezer for days when you are too rushed to do anything but hit “start” on the microwave.

Tips to Know While You’re Working to Get Back on Track

Expect resistance. Whenever you make a change to the family rhythm or adjust your parenting style, your kids are not going to like it. But it is worth it. Stick with it and they will adapt. Remember that while kids may not like rules and routine, they need them. They feel safer and more relaxed knowing what the limits are, say experts.

How to deal with resistance.

  • Set ground rules. To get kids to cooperate, many parents offer unhealthy prizes to get their kids into a family routine.  Screen time in front of video games or TV is an unhealthy choice because it keeps kids from getting up and being physically active. Using sweets and treats as a reward places an unhealthy value on food. Kids can learn to associate food with feeling good and may begin to use it as a way to try and fix feelings. Food can’t fix feelings. So avoid the unhealthy rewards approach. Not only is it a less-than-healthy tactic -- it can backfire.

"If you start rewarding your kids for fulfilling basic household obligations, all they'll think about is the reward," says Anderman. He recommends that you make a child's allowance or privileges depend on whether or not they do a few tasks. If they don't do them, they don't get paid their allowance or don’t get their privileges. That way it's not about instant gratification but about building a sense of responsibility and natural family obligation.


  • Keep calm. "If you're screaming and harassing your kids all the time to do things, your approach isn't working," Anderman says. "You need to break the pattern." Stay calm.

Screaming and harassing them is stressful to them and you. Show them how to communicate, even when they are upset. Knowing how to communicate and handle stress are skills that can help them for life. Stress has been linked to unhealthy weight gain and other major health problems.

  • Teach by example. They say actions speak louder than words. Instead of yelling, if you want your kids to get back into healthy habits, show them how.


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