Incorporate these simple ideas into your lifestyle to help keep your family healthy and happy.

For all families

  • Create a safe food environment. Eliminate tempting foods and sodas from the house.

  • Give children big cups of water when they come home from school and with each meal. Water is the best way to replenish the body's fluids and is a low-cost and healthy beverage.

  • Reduce television watching. Insist that children do the "TV-commercial boogie": dancing, jumping, or simply standing up and moving their arms and legs around during commercials. Doing this increases children's physical activity and reduces the impact of fast-food-focused advertising.

  • Spend at least 30 minutes each day (60 is better) playing before starting homework. Encourage your child to play outside.

  • Eat together as a family, sitting at a table without distractions.

Up To Age 5

  • Breast-feed. Studies have shown that breast-feeding helps protect against
    diabetes and obesity.

  • When you start a baby on solid foods, give vegetables before fruits to avoid developing a sweet tooth.

  • Don't restrict dietary fats for children under 2 years. Their developing brains require adequate amounts of fat in the diet. So, for example, whole milk and yogurt can be good choices for toddlers.

  • Don't worry about weight in very young children. What a toddler weighs is not indicative of his or her adult weight. A parent's weight, particularly the mother's, is a better predictor of potential weight problems.

  • Don't restrict portions for young children. Preschoolers naturally stop eating when they are full.

  • Expose small children to a diversity of food. Children often don't like a new food the first time they try it, so give them second—and third—chances to acquaint themselves with it.

For Teenagers

  • See what motivates teenagers to lose weight. Fighting cancer may not motivate them, but having nicer skin, fitting into a smaller size, or improving their athletic performance might.

  • Include teenagers in decision making about food and exercise.

  • Teach your teenager how to eat out without pigging out, by buying kids' meals (half the calories, plus a toy!), splitting meals, ordering appetizers instead of entrées, and knowing which foods to avoid entirely.

  • Many teenagers like to talk on the telephone. Tell your teen, "You can talk as long as you walk." (This may require investing in a cordless phone.) The moment your teen sits down, the conversation is over.

Specifically For Parents

  • Set aside family time for shared physical activity, such as walks after dinner.

  • Use positive reinforcement.

  • Don't use food as a reward or a punishment.

  • Set guidelines and limits, explain them, and stick to them.

  • Be a good role model.

—K.L.

Source: Trim Kids (HarperResource, 2001).