Despite the perpetual image of so-called soccer moms carting their over-scheduled kids from soccer to ballet to basketball and back, most children live a rather sedentary life--spending all day in the classroom, followed by hours sitting at a table doing homework and then parked in front of the televison or computer munching on chips and soda. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010 more than one third of children and adolescents in the United States were classified as either overweight or obese. But there are steps you can take to make sure you keep your kids' health on track!


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No wonder people like First Lady Michelle Obama and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are pushing to make changes to benefit the health and wellness of our children! But as great as healthier school lunches and revamped physical education programs are, maintaining a healthy lifestyle for kids starts and ends at home. Check out our top six tips for keeping your kids' health on track:

Encourage outdoor freeplay. Do your best to get your kids outside for at least a little while each day. Being out in the fresh air has a way of making kids want to get up and be active. Whether in your backyard, a playground, a park or pounding the pavement, there are lots of ways to get your kids moving outdoors.

Offer a variety of healthy foods. You should strive to offer your children a variety of healthy foods for both meals and snacks. Kids feel empowered when they have options, so let them choose whether to munch on apples and peanut butter or popcorn and real cheese. And if they refuse something, continue to offer it -- eventually they'll try it and probably like it.

Make water and milk readily available. Keep your fridge stocked with cold water and milk and save soft drinks and juice for outings. When your kids are well-hydrated they will feel better and have more energy to engage in active play. At meals, milk is a great source of a number of essential nutrients and healthy calories.

Enforce a weeknight bedtime. Adequate sleep is crucial in ensuring that your kids have the energy and mental awareness to make the most of each day, especially once they start school. The only way to make sure they are getting enough rest is to establish and maintain a regular bedtime.

Don't skip well-visits. When your child appears to be the picture of health, it can be easy to just keep pushing off that well visit he's due for, but don't. Well visits will help you stay on track for preventing any potential health issues and allow for early intervention if something has already developed. This goes for dental and vision as well.

Keep communication open. Always remember that mental health is just as important as physical health, and one of the most important factors in maintaining good mental health in children and teens is having  solid, loving relationships at home. Your kids should be comfortable discussing anything and everything with you.

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Topics: childhood obesity  mental health  overweight  parenting  sleep  tips for kids  tips  parents and children  kids  healthy kids  health  child rearing  array