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New Years Resolution: Fit Kids Start With Fit Families

December 23, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Youngsters don't often make New Year's resolutions, but considering that about 32-percent of children are overweight, parents may want to encourage them to do so.

Encouraging a healthier lifestyle for children begins with the parents, says registered dietitian Karen Stephens at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics. Why wait until 2012 to ring in the New Year, she says, when people can start making small changes today.

"If people are thinking, 'Well, we'll just get through the holidays and then we'll worry about it in January,' I think it's kind of always putting it off. There's no reason to not think of it. 'OK, here we are in December. Let's make this a healthy month, too.' So when you go to the store, instead of buying chips and crackers, you buy the oranges and apples instead."

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends several goals for healthier living, such as trying a new sport, drinking more milk and water while limiting soda and fruit juice, getting plenty of sleep each night, and trying new fruits and veggies.

Stephens says childhood obesity makes youngsters more susceptible to health risks, including diabetes and heart disease.

"The reality is these children will not grow out of it. Particularly if they're overweight as children and teenagers, they will tend to be overweight as adults, as well. Whatever those medical problems that may have started as children, they will continue on into adulthood."

Children need to be active for an hour a day, Stephens says, but it doesn't have to be all at once. She advises limiting screen time to less than two hours a day, which includes television, video and computer games.

Heather Claybrook, Public News Service - MO