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Health Care

Nearly two-thirds of Americans are obese, a scary statistic. Unfortunately obesity isn't just affecting adults, children are now getting in on the act. Already 33% of American children are overweight, and that number is expected to grow to 50% by 2010.

The long-term effects of this trend are dire. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) one third of the children born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes, which used to be considered an adult disease. Now a new study shows that 60% of chubby toddlers are overweight by age 12. Unless something is done now, our children are headed for a health crisis - one that could be prevented.

So what is a parent to do? Along with cleaning out the junk food and turning off the TV, there is one simple step that parents can follow to help their children avoid obesity and its side effects. Prepare meals home. It is no coincidence that the rate of obesity for both children and adults started its incline at the same time we gave up the evening meal in favor of nightly fast food and family restaurant visits. Not only are many of those dishes laden with excess fat, salt and sugar, the portions are huge and often lack nutritive value, especially if you order from the children's menu.

According to family and consumer scientist and nutrition educator Renee Pottle, author of I Want My Dinner Now! - Simple Meals for Busy Cooks preparing dinner at home doesn't have to be a time consuming chore. "You don't have to prepare a gourmet meal every night," Pottle points out, "tasty, nutritious food that the kids will eat can often be fixed in 30 minutes or less." She offers the following tips to help your children slim down while keeping their palates happy. The bonus? These simple steps will help parents stay trim or lose weight, too.

Portion control - Try using plate service from the kitchen instead of serving everything family style. Keep the child's size in mind too as children shouldn't be served adult sized portions. For younger children, 1/3 cup of cooked vegetables and a 2-ounce hamburger (that's half a quarter pounder) are plenty. An older child's serving should be ½ cup of cooked vegetables and a 3-ounce burger.

Reduce fat, salt and sugar - Even home cooked meals sometimes include too much fat, salt, and sugar. Limit their use and you and your kids will learn how food really tastes.

Bring on the veggies - Start serving children a variety of vegetables when they are young. If the kids are really fussy, sneak vegetables into soups and casseroles.

Variety - Serve a variety of colors and textures on every plate. If something looks good, it's more apt to be eaten! Scramble eggs and some cheese, wrap in a tortilla and serve with a green or fruit salad. Quick, easy, and nutritious for kids and parents alike.

Let the kids help - Children as young as three can help set the table while older kids can mix together dry ingredients or wash fresh vegetables. Let them help plan the weekly menu, giving them a choice between two options, i.e. potatoes or rice, green beans or broccoli.

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