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In recent years, obesity has become a major epidemic, affecting not only adults but also children as well. And, as children become increasingly overweight, their risk of developing adult diseases like metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea, orthopedic complications, and even hypertension and heart disease also increases. All adults are encouraged to educate and inspire children to stay active and make healthy food choices.

The American Obesity Association attributes the increase in childhood obesity to poor diet and lack of physical activity. Kids are faced with dietary temptations every day through TV commercials, the school cafeteria and vending machines, and the plethora of neighborhood fast-food chains. What’s more, outdoor play, which used to be kids’ primary form of exercise, has now taken a backseat to sedentary indoor activities involving computers, video games, and television. Combined with a decrease in physical-education programs at many public schools, it’s much tougher now for kids to achieve and maintain an optimal level of physical fitness. Here are a few tips to motivate your kids to eat better and exercise more:

Get involved at school. If your local school cafeteria frequently serves dishes like fried chicken nuggets, pizza, and french fries, your kids will be better off if you pack a healthy homemade lunch, filled with fiber-rich, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, 100 percent whole-grain bread for sandwiches made with lean meats (or sugar-free peanut butter and jam), and low-fat milk as a beverage. Also, be sure to serve well-balanced meals for breakfast and dinner. (And work with the school board to make some changes in the cafeteria if you can.) If your children’s school recently eliminated gym class and/or recess, then it’s especially important for you to make sure your kids get some exercise at home. Take them on a walk, play games with them outdoors, or motivate them to participate in after-school sports through the “Y” or other organizations.

Encourage your children to try new things. Whether it’s a new healthy food or a new get-moving after-school activity, kids need variety. Regularly exposing them to a range of good-for-you foods and fun ways to keep fit will automatically improve their health and fitness over time.

Set a good example. Parents are their kids’ primary role models. Children learn what to eat and how to exercise from watching what their parents do, and statistics show that overweight parents are more likely to raise overweight children. So, if you’re already following the South Beach Diet lifestyle, you’re doing the right thing! Since you are enjoying a variety of highly nutritious foods and exercising on a regular basis, you’re already setting a good example and educating your children on how to be healthier.

Source: The South Beach Daily Dish, www.southbeachdiet.com.

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