Taking the lead: Six steps to keep your kids fit

According to the Centers for Disease Control, obesity rates in children increased from 5 percent to more than 18 percent between 1980 and 2008.

Locally, according to Public Health-Seattle & King County, in 2008, 30.2 percent of students in grades 8, 10 and 12 were considered overweight or obese.

The good news is there are some simple, cost-effective ways for parents to make healthier choices for their kids.

Start at home

Children develop their earliest eating and exercise habits at home. Armed with the right information and tools, parents have a unique opportunity to take the lead when it comes to demonstrating healthy eating habits to their children. When children see their parents enjoying a nutritious meal or sticking with a physical fitness program, they're much more likely to do the same.

Here are six ways you can take the lead to teach your kids healthy nutrition habits:

•Learn healthy nutrition habits - You are what you eat. Being able to read nutrition facts is good, but understanding the difference between types of fats, sugars and carbohydrates can make the difference between good and bad nutrition.

Ask yourself: Do I really know what a balanced meal looks like? Websites like mypyramid.gov are a great resource for more information on healthy foods and portions.

•Get your kids involved in the decision-making process - Start with having them help you develop the grocery list. Ask your kids what fruits and vegetables they prefer.

Bring your kids to the grocery store, if you dare! While this may seem like a daunting idea, kids are much more likely to enjoy fruits and vegetables if they are given the opportunity to provide you with feedback.

•Plant a garden - Gardens are another great way to spend time with the family while teaching proper nutrition. Finding space to grow a garden can be challenging; however, there are plenty of ways to plant a garden without having a yard.

Grow plants in pots: If you have a small deck or balcony you can grow fresh herbs and vegetables in pots.

Find a p-patch: A p-patch is a community garden that invites the public to grow fruits or vegetables for personal use. There are more than 70 throughout Seattle. Consult the City of Seattle website for a complete list of all the p-patches around your neighborhood.

•Shop together at a local farmers market - If planting your own food isn't your cup of tea, farmers markets can be a great way to get fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products from local farmers and another great way to get your children involved.

•Make eating fun - If you are still having trouble getting your kids to eat healthy fruits and vegetables, get creative. Encourage your kids to make silly monsters and creations out of their vegetables. This is also a great way for parents to participate in a fun activity with their kids, while encouraging healthy eating habits.

•Keep your kids moving - Even though it may seem like a chore to get your kids off the couch, believe it or not, there are fun ways to exercise. Take the lead by signing your kids up for activities they enjoy.

Ask your kids what they like to do; if they are indecisive, take them to a community center. The city offers lap pools and many different sports year-round. Sometimes getting your kids to exercise is just a matter of finding activities they enjoy.

Easy to do

Keeping your kids healthy can be fun and easy if you learn how to incorporate these six steps into your weekly schedule. Take the initiative to learn about proper nutrition and explore fun opportunities for healthy eating and exercise in your neighborhood.

Parents, it's your time to get out there and take the lead!

Cristina Lattuga is a registered dietician with Pacific Medical Centers, which has clinics in Beacon Hill, Capitol Hill and Northgate. For a free wellness guide or for more information about (888) 4-PACMED or visit www.pacmed.org.[[In-content Ad]]