Food for Thought - Keeping your family fit

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Keeping Fitness in the Family

by Senior Writer, Kim Paolino

Keeping your family fit

Today adults are fifty per cent heavier than in the past ten years, and childhood obesity in the United States has risen to 54 per cent for children age's six to eleven.

Men, women, and children alike, are being steered away from physical activities, to a more sedentary lifestyle that includes too much TV or movies on that new DVD player, playing video games, and the ever popular "surfing the net". This fact coupled with eating high-calorie, high-fat foods, result in extra, unwanted pounds, and an overall loss of muscle tone.

Diet programs for adults are not meant for children. Kids require additional calories to supply energy and nutrients for normal growth and development. Stay away from restrictive diets, and concentrate on healthier eating patterns and sound nutrition.

The example you set will remain with your children for the rest of their lives. As a family that lives, eats and plays together, shouldn't you be learning to get healthy, strong and fit together?

Having been 30 pounds heavier ten years ago, forced me to apply some practical ideas to reduce fat and calories in my own daily diet. I'm all too aware that losing weight and getting in shape is easier said then done, but basic knowledge, an honest desire, some reasonable goals, and pure consistency will help you on the way to a healthier, leaner you.

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Always have good food in the house, such as, fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and lean meats. When you get hungry, it's important to have the right provisions at your fingertips, rather then struggling to find something fast and having to resort to a fatty alternative.

In the mornings, substitute jelly instead of butter on your toast or bagel. Children love to experiment with different flavors and colors, and instead of regular cream cheese, use low-fat, and reduce the amount you actually spread on. If you don't tell, they'll never know -and you won't mind the taste either.

Skim or 1 per cent milk instead of whole milk is the way to go. Substitute reduced-fat cheese on your burgers, and exchange regular puddings and yogurts for low fat varieties. Replace regular peanut butter with reduced-fat peanut butter -- I eat it, and it tastes just as good.

Tailor portion size. The old adage, "Your eyes are bigger then your stomach", is quite true. For children, use smaller plates so their portions don't appear skimpy; they can always ask for more.

Adults are more accustomed to eating salads and vegetables, so fix more than one with any meal. They're nutritious, low-fat filler uppers. On the other hand, vegetables are not a big hit with many kids, so make eating them fun.

Suggest they pick out the vegetables they actually like. Try leaving them raw and dip them in a concoction made from equal parts of low-fat cottage cheese, and grated cheese. Hide vegetables in minestrone soup and pasta primavera.

Always use low-fat salad dressing and skip the sour cream on your baked potato. Instead, try a dab of mustard or a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar and oregano. Remember, anything that works better on your table for them, will also work for you.

Chicken is the better choice for meat. Bake it, barbecue it, George Forman it, just don't fry it. You can still bread and bake chicken in the oven, and go skinless, 25% less fat.

When eating red meat, choose lean cuts, and serve in moderation. The same goes for pork. Some adults and children hate beans, but love chili. Prepare it with ground turkey or chicken, with all the spices, you'll enjoy it just as well.

Limit the intake of juice, a lot of hidden calories in the form of sugar, and serve soda only on special occasions. I know water may seem boring, but it is the best possible thing for you. Cut up some lemons, limes, oranges or cherries, add some ice, and you have a tasty, refreshing beverage.

Snacks... we all enjoy a munch. Opt for baked potato chips; they contain a lot less fat and fewer calories. Keep different shaped pretzels in the cabinets, as well as some flavored mini-rice cakes. My favorite flavors are BBQ and chocolate. I eat them all the time and think they're great. The good news is they come in at only 60 calories per serving (serving size-6 cakes), with a miniscule 0.5 grams of fat.

Eating properly is only one important facet of losing weight and getting fit. Exercise is another. I encourage you to adapt to a safe, effective exercise program. I did, and it made all the difference for me, physically and mentally. I started using The Firefighter's Workout even before it was made available in book form. Losing weight and maintaining my present fitness level, I'm proof in the low-fat pudding that it works.

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As always, when embarking upon any new exercise program, see you doctor.

Plan activities that you and your children can participate in together. Bicycle riding, talking brisk walks after dinner, playing ball, or even a game of hopscotch. Any movement is better than none.

Set limits, and adhere to some practical rules, no eating while watching TV or sitting behind the computer screen. You can make an exception to this rule for a favorite movie or program once a week, and have a low-fat snack during this special occasion. For we adults, alcohol consumption should be kept to a minimum for so many health reasons.

Keep meals and snacks enjoyable, and eat because you're hungry. Let your children have choices, and involve them with food shopping and cooking. Talk openly with them, and confront your own weight issues with open eyes. If necessary, seek professional help. Check with your children's school, sometimes they have guidance counselors that could also be of assistance.

A great diet advice website to check out is Read some of their advice and success stories. But above all, eat in moderation and make sure both you and your family get enough physical activity.