10 Ways to Raise Healthier Kids

Family dinners, dietary variety and other tactics for healthy children

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One in three American kids are either overweight or obese. With that in mind, it is extremely important to start healthy habits as early as possible.

Here are my top 10 tips for raising healthier kids:

1. Consistently introduce a variety of foods to your kids. This is very important and the earlier, the better. It can take five to 20 times of trying a new food until your child actually enjoys it.

[Read: Rethinking the Kid-Veggie Relationship.]

2. Avoid being a short-order cook for your kids. It's fine to frequently include some of their favorite foods, but you don't want to be making four different meals every night for everyone in the family.

3. Make the switch to whole grains. Bread, pasta, pancakes, tortillas, pita, cereal, crackers and brown rice offer plenty of opportunities. It might not always be possible when eating out, but it should be a no-brainer when you are making meals at home.

[Read: Children's Cereal: Healthy Start or Junk Food?]

4. Put the brakes on fast food. It can certainly be tough when you're on your way back from a soccer game and have no groceries at home. But try to limit the number of times you eat fast food. Research shows that elementary- and middle-school students who live closer to fast food restaurants are more likely to be obese.

[Read: 3 Ways to Get Fast Food From Your Garden.]

5. Make activity a family affair. Go for a family bike ride or walk. Find some local tennis courts, trails or a track and get moving!

6. Ask for their help. Tell your children that you want them to help you pick out some of their favorite healthy foods at the grocery store for good energy to play sports and do well in school.

[Read: Teach Kids About Nutrition in the Grocery Store.]

7. Provide mental nutrition with a mantra. One of the most important parts of your child's health is his or her self-esteem. While we are often saying "no" to our kids, consider how you can help build your child's self esteem. You might teach them to practice a nightly self-affirmation like, "I can be whatever I want to be when I grow up".

8. Limit computer/phone/TV/game time. Kids are getting less physical interaction with other kids today, because they are consumed by their electronics. Set some limits, and encourage in-person interaction with friends and family.

[Read: Popular Kids' Drinks to Avoid.]

9. Exercise. Encourage your kids to go outside and play. Go to the park and have them ride their bikes or (non-motorized) scooters, for example.

10. Eat together as a family more often. Researchers have shown that teens who eat with their families at least five times a week are less likely to be troubled than those who eat with their families three or fewer times per week. The teens who had more family dinners experienced closer ties with their parents and less stress, both of which lowered their risk of substance abuse.

[Read: Cory Monteith's Death Highlights Addiction 'Crisis'.]

Eating together means all family members are gathered around the same table at the same time. No one is eating in another room, and televisions are turned off.

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback.

Mitzi Dulan, RD, CSSD, is a nationally recognized nutrition and fitness expert who inspires people to lose weight and get fit. Mitzi is team nutritionist for the Kansas City Royals and served as team nutritionist for the Kansas City Chiefs for several years. She coauthored, with NFL Future Hall-of-Famer Tony Gonzalez, The All-Pro Diet, which helps people eat clean and get lean. Her next book, "The Pinterest Diet: How to Pin Your Way Thin," will be released in October. Follow Mitzi on Pinterest at NutritionExpert.