10 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today

Help kids create healthy habits with these simple changes.

A lifestyle of family fitness requires a commitment from your whole team. It will be much easier for children to accept—maybe even embrace—changes to their eating habits and activity levels if they are not going it alone. These recommendations apply to families in which someone needs to lose weight, and also to those families hoping to prevent obesity and kick off lifelong healthy habits. Everyone can benefit from better nutrition and more physical activity, no matter where they're starting out.

Spend an hour a day moving.

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Help kids fit in at least 60 minutes of fitness every day (for weight loss, maintenance, obesity prevention, and general health). That might mean 20 minutes walking to and from school, 15 minutes of physical play at recess, and 25 minutes of soccer, either informally or at a practice with teammates. Make sure your child has the gear he needs to have fun and be safe (baseball mitt, bike helmet, etc.), but remember there are lots of ways to be active that require little or no equipment.

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Stock up on fruits and vegetables.

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Encourage your child to eat five or more servings of produce a day. This helps crowd out less nutritious choices and gives your child lots of vitamins and antioxidants. Try the "rainbow challenge": How many different colors of fruits and veggies can he eat in a day? A week?

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Be a role model to inspire kids.

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Set a good example for your child by choosing a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise yourself. You don't have to become a marathon runner overnight, but adding a walk after dinner or a yoga class in the morning helps a lot. Challenge yourself to use your car less and your bike (or your feet) more.

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Drink lots of water.

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Swap soda for water, low-fat milk, or juice (but limit juice to 4 to 8 ounces a day, since it contains natural sugars and lots of calories). Encourage water as the go-to drink for everyone in your home.

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Limit screen time.

Shut off the TV (or computer, or video game console, or tablet) after a max of two hours a day. This frees up time for more physical activity and can contribute to kids' weight loss.

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Eat a healthy breakfast every day.

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Eating breakfast helps your child avoid snacking on empty calories later in the morning because she's "sooooo hungry." Provide a morning meal that includes whole grains, fruit, and protein. Skipping meals doesn't promote weight loss, for kids or adults!

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Get a good night's sleep.

Sufficient, restful sleep can actually help prevent weight gain in kids and adults. Plus, staying at a healthy weight and getting enough daily exercise can improve sleep. So make sure everyone in your home is snoozing soundly each night.

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Eat meals at home.

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Yes, you can make healthy choices at restaurants and even your favorite fast-food spot, but it's a lot easier to control your family's fat and calorie intake if you prepare food at home.

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Rethink "exercise" to make kids' physical activity more fun.

Physical activity doesn't have to mean an organized team sport or class. Housework, yardwork, and playing at the playground all get kids up and moving. So does asking them to teach you a new dance move or race you to the corner as you walk around the block.

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Be your child's cheerleader.

Especially during puberty, kids need lots of encouragement to be active and move their bodies. Praise them for making small changes and for weight loss efforts, not results.

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