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You would have to be hiding with your head in the sand not to notice the obesity epidemic in America today. In fact, obesity rates have doubled in the last twenty years, and in children the rate has tripled, according to research conducted by the American Dietetic Association. Obesity is much more than simply a cosmetic problem. Being significantly overweight causes serious health problems, and when obesity starts in childhood, it often sets the child up for a lifetime of poor health.

While obesity can be hereditary, there are many steps a parent can take to keep their child from becoming obese, even if there is a genetic predisposition towards the condition. The most important factor leading to today’s obese children is poor nutrition. Snack food is readily available, and often full of refined sugars that contain no nutritional value.

In order to encourage your children to eat properly, start feeding them high quality food that is full of nutritional value at an early age. As the children age, model proper eating behavior. Encourage your children to eat slowly at meals and enjoy their food. Parents who urge their children to finish their meals quickly are setting them up for poor eating habits in later life. The slower a child eats, the less food he will consume.

Stop Rewarding With Food

One particular problem we face in America is the use of food as a reward. When children do well in school or behave properly at the store they are rewarded with candy or ice cream treats. This teaches the child that food, especially sweet, fattening foods, are emotionally fulfilling. Consider rewarding your child with a small toy that they will enjoy for much longer than a treat.

Healthy Snacking

Have convenient, healthy foods on hand for quick snacks. Consider keeping some fruit salad sliced up in your fridge. A small amount of lemon juice will keep the fruit from browning. Carrot sticks are another satisfying snack. For a sweet treat, freeze some pure fruit juice into a tasty Popsicle. A fruit smoothie with pure yogurt is another desert option that is high in nutritional value.

While it may not be impossible, or necessary, to avoid fatty, sugary foods altogether in your child’s diet, it is best if they are a rare treat. This will teach your child to look for foods that provide solid sources of fuel for their bodies. Then, when the birthday cake or Christmas treat comes around, they can enjoy some sugar, and you do not have to worry about the health risks because you know that their normal diet is healthy and nutritious.

Go Outside And Play

Children who eat properly are generally more active, because they have more energy from the good food they are eating. This extra activity helps burn calories, which is also helpful in keeping weight at bay. Children who eat proper diets are more likely to go outside and run around than children who eat a diet high in sugar and refined flour. Daily vitamins are also a great way to help keep kids healthy. While adults may consider adding in organic supplements like green tea or extract of forskolin, children should refrain from taking these types of supplements unless approved by a doctor