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Raising Fit Kids: Healthy Nurtition, Exercise, and Weight

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Food: Plan Ahead continued...

Make family favorites healthier. At the store, look for lean meat. When buying ground beef, look for more than 93% lean. Brown that for your spaghetti sauce and serve it on whole wheat pasta. There are lots of ways to slim down family favorites.

Have some non-dinner dinners. Do your children have a late practice or rehearsal? Plan quick dinners for those days, like a wrap, salad, or meatless burrito with beans, a whole wheat tortilla, and low-fat cheese.

Or let lean chili or soup simmer during the day in a slow cooker, so it will be ready when you come home. "You don't have to always eat dinner food for dinner," Crandall says. "An omelet with bell peppers, mushrooms, onion, and low-fat cheese and whole wheat toast is a healthy quick fix."

Make meals your kids can help with. Whether they're setting the table, dicing vegetables for dinner, or helping you make snack bars or trail mix, kids can share the workload. And they'll be more interested in eating foods they help prepare. When you get the whole family involved in your new healthy eating habits, you’re benefiting their fitness, too.

Exercise: Think Small

"Finding time to exercise is one of the biggest challenges for parents," says Kerri Boutelle PhD, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego.

Remember: There are small things you can incorporate in your day and get your kids involved. Help them learn that exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. Moving and being active should be a normal, fun part of life.

You don't have to do it all at once. You can break it up into manageable chunks, like taking a 10-minute walk on your lunch break. Other ways to get exercise into your life:

  • Drive your kids halfway to school and walk with them the rest of the way.
  • Set an alarm on your cell phone to go off a few times during the day. When it does, go for a 10-minute walk.
  • If you work in an office, sit on an exercise ball or use a stand-up desk. You'll burn more calories than sitting in a chair.
  • March in place when you watch TV.

"Exercise should be a family affair," Crandall says. "If your family supports you and joins in, it helps you stay on track."

For example, after dinner, have everyone head out the door for an after-dinner walk before it gets dark. The dishes can wait.

Turn the time that you spend watching TV into a game. Challenge everyone to get up and do jumping jacks during the commercials.

Family activities -- like hula hoop contests, creating a garden, or bowling nights -- also keep kids involved.

 

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