A whopping 23.9 million children in America are considered obese or overweight. As a growing epidemic, it’s important to take control in your own family to ensure your children stay healthy. As a parent, sibling, friend, or relative of a child, you can encourage a healthy and active lifestyle in a number of ways, ranging from food choices to athletics.

Buy Healthy Food

You’re the person who feeds your children, so it’s your responsibility to give them food that’s going to nourish them. Giving them good food not only teaches them to make healthy choices about what they put in their bodies, but children need whole, nutritional foods to grow mentally and physically. A few basic things to keep in mind when shopping for the family:

  • Shop the peripheral aisles. This is where most of the produce is, and helps to avoid purchasing processed items that are sugar-laden and full of sodium, and unnatural ingredients.
  • Pack healthy lunches and snacks for your children. Think: peanut butter and banana, carrots and hummus, or grapes with a whole wheat sandwich. Don’t rely on the school to provide them with the healthy food they need.

Make Healthy Food Appealing

Children will like healthy food options if you present it in a way that is appealing to them. For example, a pile of plain, steamed spinach is likely not appealing to an adult, much less a child. But, pair that with whole wheat macaroni and cheese, and they’re more likely to eat it and ask for it again. Seek out kid-friendly recipes from friends and family or simply take your child’s favorite meal and make it healthier.

Be Active as a Family

The best way to prevent childhood obesity is to take part in healthy activities with your children, or young siblings, friends and family members. For example, instead of hanging around the house on a Saturday, take a short hike or head to the local park and play on the playground. Even the smallest amount of activity can make a difference in keeping children healthy. Some other activities to try with your family include:

  • Family yoga
  • Walk to the store
  • Go swimming on a hot day
  • Rake leaves together
  • Take a bike ride

Encourage Sports and Camps

Though not every child is an athlete, you never know unless you give them a little push to try it. Find local athletic teams or check with your child’s school. If they don’t offer the sport in a competitive program, many schools have clubs which provide all the same benefits.

In the summer and on school breaks, sign your child up for camps. These encourage participation and an active lifestyle, in a social setting that is appealing.

Using the resources available to you, like athletic programs and camps, you can make a big difference in your child’s health and well-being. Don’t forget to keep their diet healthy, too, by purchasing healthy options and packing food for school whenever possible. Instilling the need for a healthy lifestyle in your young children now will have life-long benefits.