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Diet and Exercise: Treating Childhood Obesity 
 
by Laurie June 23, 2005

How to Prevent Childhood Obesity

As a parent, teacher, or other caregiver, you should make a conscious effort to prevent childhood obesity. In a world filled with fast food restaurants and soda, this is not always easy. You must provide children with healthy eating choices. Additionally, encourage children to actually want to eat healthy.

If describe junk food as a treat and health food as necessary, children will believe that eating healthily is a chore or even a punishment. Make healthy food the treat; serve children delicious fresh fruit, fresh whole grain bread, and lean meats that they will enjoy. Junk food should be portrayed as inferior, both in taste and nutrition. This should not be too hard to teach since junk food really is inferior. The trick will be demonstrating that you yourself actually prefer health food.

Avoid using food as a reward. This will cause children to eat when they are happy, when they are sad, and eat when they are not at all hungry; this behavior will continue into adulthood. Food is not a reward, and children should be taught to eat only in response to hunger.

Actually, children are naturally very good about eating only when they are hungry; usually, they begin to lose this ability only because adults teach them to always finish their plate and eat special treats whether or not they are already full. Never force children to eat more than they want.

In order to maintain a healthy weight, children also need to exercise. The type of exercise does not matter. Children can ride bikes, skate board, play dance games at the local arcade, play basketball, or do anything else that appeals to them. If your child is not very physically active, you should enroll him or her in a sports organization or class. Even children who are normally quite active will benefit from more structured activities, which will allow them to increase their physical abilities while developing discipline. If your child is more academically minded, remind him or her that high school sports look great on college applications.

Remember that you are a role model. If you are telling children to eat healthy and exercise regularly while you yourself do neither of these things, you advice will probably not be followed. So eat well, enjoy eating well, and work out.

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