The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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Health & Fitness

January 22, 2014

Speaking of Health: How to keep your family fit

The health and success of your children likely rank near the top of your priority list. So it’s a pretty safe bet that parents will follow advice that claims to enhance their child’s well-being. And the need for improved health in children is apparent: according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 13 percent of U.S. preschoolers are obese.

When it comes to healthy eating and active lifestyles, there are some simple changes parents and children can make to become healthier as a family unit.

Options for healthier eating

• Eat meals together. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, kids that eat regular meals with their family tend to get better grades, experience more motivation toward school and are less likely to use drugs and alcohol.

• Find alternatives for sugary cereals. Try oatmeal instead. You can top it with applesauce, berries, chopped fruit or cinnamon – skip the sugar altogether.

• Rid your family of white bread. Opt for whole-grain breads. Whole grains contribute to an overall healthy diet.

• Toss the soda. Quit drinking soda and other heavily sweetened beverages. Drink more water instead.

• Be aware of fats. Make sure you’re cognizant of unhealthy (saturated fats) and healthy (unsaturated) fats. Cut the unhealthy fats out of your family’s diet completely, and consume healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in moderation. Omega-3 fatty acids – found in fatty fish, flaxseed and walnuts – are good for heart health. Try serving an Omega-3-rich fish entrée twice per week.

• Make mealtime pleasant. Dinner shouldn’t be a time to lecture your kids. Use it as a chance to get to know one another better and bond as a family.

• Don’t use food as a reward or penalty. Food serves the purpose of nourishment and should not be used an incentive or punishment.

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