Here is a sure-fire list of diet dos and don'ts to help your family triumph over obesity:
1. Be a 'healthy' role model. The number one thing that parents can do is to be a good role model for their children, Parents so often unknowingly set their kids up for failure. If there are chips, cookies and Twinkies and no fruit or vegetables when your kids look for snacks, how can they succeed? Line your refrigerator and cabinets with fresh fruits, nuts, low-fat cheese, easy things for kids to snack on besides 'junk food'.
In a 2000 survey conducted by the CDC, close to 80% of adults reported eating fewer than the recommended five or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily -- not good role-model behavior.
2. Be positive. Don't tell your child to 'lose weight' say, 'Let's be healthy and start taking care of our bodies'. Focus on the foods you can eat, not the ones that you should limit eating. Say, 'Let's go pick out fruits and make a fruit salad,' not 'Don't eat this or that.' Instead of saying, 'We have to exercise,' say, 'Lets go to the park.' Use positive words and phrases when talking with your kid.
3. Make healthy eating a family affair. Create family meals together and for the entire family. Do not single out an overweight family member with special diet food. Your entire family can benefit form healthy eating regardless of weight.
A family that eats together, eats better, according to a recent study in the journal Archives of Family Medicine. The study showed children who report frequent family dinners have healthier diets than their peers who don't.
4. Avoid portion distortion. When serving food you must use portion control, buffet-type or family-style situations tends to promote overeating. Fill up on salads and cooked vegetables at meals and always wait 10-15 minutes before having a second helping. Second helpings should only be taken if truly hungry.
5. Start the day off right with a good breakfast. A bowl of low-sugar cereal with low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt with a granola or breakfast bar, or an English muffin with peanut butter, rather than a doughnut or muffin. A healthy breakfast will put your family on the healthy track for the rest of the day.
6. Make time for physical activity. Make physical activity a family activity. Every night after dinner in the summer, go for a half-hour walk and make it an activity that kids look forward to. If you can afford it, enroll your kids in dancing or a sporting activity that they enjoy because they need to enjoy it to keep doing it. Or just turn on some dance music and have a dance party around the house.
7. Try again. Weight loss and healthy eating is not easy. There will be times when you and your family will struggle with this new lifestyle. It is important to keep trying. Failure is certain if you are not trying.