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September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Growing obesity rates affect not only adults but children and adolescents, too. Currently, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in every 5 children in the United States is considered obese. Unfortunately, childhood obesity puts kids at risk for health problems like Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and sleep apnea. The good news is there are some simple steps you can take to help. Together, we can create opportunities for kids to eat healthier, get more active and have fun doing it!

Here are a few ideas and steps you can take:

Make small changes. Keep fresh fruit and healthy snacks within easy reach. Do things together like going on a family walk after dinner, or going to the store together to pick out healthy foods. Encourage kids to be adventurous and choose fruits and vegetables they haven't tried yet!

Eat together as a family. Beyond the benefit of helping children develop healthy eating habits, eating dinner is a great time to slow down, relax and enjoy time together as a family.

Serve appropriate proportions. Be sure you are providing your kids with portions appropriate for their age. Simply having a moderate approach to how much food children eat can help them maintain a healthy weight.

Offer healthy food options. Kids need balanced meals that include every food group. Be sure to provide lots of fruits and vegetables and include low-fat dairy for children over age two. Choose lean meats and proteins and opt for whole grains. At first, kids may not like these options. Don't give up! Children develop their food preferences through exposure and experience. It may take several tries before they will adopt a food!

Limit high fat and high sugar foods. Many children prefer these foods, but they are low in nutrition and high in calories. If you have trouble making the transition with your kids, try making healthier versions of their favorite snacks. For example, try adding fruit to plain yogurt to replace ice cream. For homemade potato chips, thinly slice a sweet potato, then spray it with olive oil and bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

Promote exercise. It's recommended that kids partake in 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity most days of the week. Take time as a family to be active! This not only sets a great example for kids but helps you stay moving, too.

Be a role model. Kids learn by example and will often adopt behaviors of the adults in their life. Being active and healthy as a family is a great way to support each other and set the stage for success!

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