Tips to prevent childhood obesity

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and as a leading community-based organization dedicated to improving health, the Northern Lights YMCA offers the following tips to help families incorporate healthy eating and regular physical activity into their lives.

The following tips will not only help families live healthier together but also help prevent childhood obesity:

— Eat and drink healthy: Make water the drink of choice and encourage everyone to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables by offering two or three colorful options at every meal. As a family, choose a new fruit and vegetable every week to taste together. Place a full pitcher of water on the table during meals and allow children to pour their own water. Keep full water bottles available in the car and back packs.

— Play every day/go outside: Children should have at least an hour a day of unstructured play outside when possible and break a sweat at least three times a week by getting 20 minutes or more of vigorous physical activity. Join your children in games that get hearts pumping and bodies moving.

— Get together: Eat as a family as frequently as possible. Involve kids in meal planning, preparation and clean up. In addition, adults should take a break from electronics and spend one-to-one time each day with their kids, enjoying one another’s company.

— Reduce recreational screen time: Time spent in front of a television, computer, tablet, cell phone or video games should be limited to two hours or less per day. Make a family plan to reduce screen time at home, such as turning off screens during meals, charging electronics/screens in the kitchen overnight, going for a walk after a meal, setting a timer as a reminder to power down the screen.

— Sleep well: Kids and adults need to keep a regular sleep schedule; unwind together in the evenings by reading a book or listening to soft music to ensure the body is preparing for sleep. Kids are growing and need 10 to 12 hours of healthy sleep a night and seven to eight hours for adults.

For more information on a healthy, active life, go to www.nlymca.com or call 906-789-0005.