American Heart Association provides tips for parents and children looking to prevent childhood obesity as the new school year begins.

Robbinsville, NJ – It’s that time again. Time to think about reading, homework and learning.  But are you thinking about your child’s overall health? While it’s important to keep our children’s brains educated and stimulated, it is just as important to make sure their bodies are healthy, too. September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, raising awareness for the No.1 health concern among parents.

Today, about one in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese. This is nearly triple the rate in 1963. Childhood obesity can lead to a broad range of health problems including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and elevated blood cholesterol levels. There are also psychological effects including low self-esteem, negative body image and depression.

“The importance of a healthy lifestyle should be emphasized to the entire family,” said COL (Dr.) Charles Garbarino, a board certified pediatrician and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics from Livingston, NJ.  “Building a healthy environment for your child will make it easier for them to make the right decisions when it comes to exercise and diet.”

Preventing childhood obesity starts at home. Here are some easy tips to incorporate into your family’s daily routine:

  1. Encourage healthy eating habits. Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole-grain products.
  2. Make your favorite dishes healthier. Create new family favorites with just a few healthy changes, such as using fat-free or low-fat milk and cheese in your cooking.
  3. Remove calorie-rich temptations from your home. Treats are OK in moderation, but limit high-fat and high-sugar snacks and substitute them with healthier options, such as low-fat yogurt with apple slices or cut veggies and low-sodium hummus.
  4. Help your kids understand the importance of being physically active. Children and teens should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week.
  5. Participate in an active lifestyle with your children. Get moving with them! Your children will learn from your actions.  Take a walk after dinner, play catch or have a dance party.
  6. Limit sedentary time. Quiet time can be okay for reading and homework, but TV time should be limited to no more than two hours a day.

This September, join the American Heart Association, and families across the country, to make a change in your life and the lives of your loved ones. Change starts at home and it starts with you.

For more information about helping your child to live a healthier life, visit www.heart.org/healthierkids.