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Childhood Obesity 101: A Parent's Primer for Prevention (continued)

What's a Parent to Do?

As gatekeepers for our family's food and health, we can have tremendous influence. Here's the best advice to date on how to keep our children healthy and fit:

1. Plan ahead. When you're travelling, pack a cooler. Hiking? Bring a backpack with organic cheese and fruit. Busy week? Plan to reheat leftovers. Going out for fast food is not a treat. It's a prescription for obesity. Just say NO.

2. Skip sweetened drinks. Instead, choose organic milk, water, or 100% organic fruit juice diluted with plain water.

3. Shrink portion sizes. Use smaller plates and bowls, and let children serve themselves – they tend to take less than when an adult does the dishing. A good rule of thumb is 1 Tablespoon per year of life for children younger than 6. (16)

4. Tame the TV. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises no more than 2 hours of quality screen time per day, and no TV or videos for children less than two. (17) The AAP also recommends removing TVs from children's bedrooms. Sage advice: Trade screen time for "green" time.

5. Ensure adequate sleep. Lack of sleep plays havoc with hormones that regulate blood sugar and appetite, leading to weight gain. (18)

6. Teach children how to garden, cook and preserve fresh food from your own organic garden. They'll develop a taste for the good stuff!

7. Be compassionate. Help overweight children feel good about themselves, regardless of their shape or size. Make your home a safe haven from ridicule.

8. Advocate for and with your kids. Work together with fellow parents and students to change school food policies to get junk out and farm fresh, safe organic foods in. (19)

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Do the Math!

The American Medical Association recommends limiting all caloric sweeteners, including sugar, honey, and HFCS, to no more than 32 grams, or 8 teaspoons, per day  (based on a 2000 calorie diet). Consider that a standard 20-ounce bottle of soda contains approximately 68 grams of sweetener (usually from HFCS). That's the equivalent of 17 teaspoons of sugar!

To calculate teaspoons of sugar, check the food label's nutrition facts panel. Divide the number of grams of sugar by four. Remember to make note of the serving size and multiply accordingly. For example, a 20-ounce soft drink contains 2.5 servings per container. Surprise! If you're drink the whole bottle, remember to multiply calories and sugar "per serving" by 2.5.

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