April 4, 2007 -- Parents can play an important part in the war against childhood obesity, which can lead to heart disease, diabetes and other medical problems later in life.
For the latest nutrition information for children and teens by age group, the Mayo Clinic offers guidelines at www.mayoclinic.com.
You can also build your own menu plan based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food pyramid at www.mypyramid.gov.
To help combat obesity, the American Obesity Association suggests some simple planning strategies to encourage good eating habits in children and bring more fitness to a family's weekly routine.
Create a family activity that involves fitness, such as walks, bike rides or Rollerblading.
Find other families in your neighborhood and schedule time for basketball, hide and seek and other active games.
Give kids active chores around the house -- vacuum, wash the car, mow the lawn.
Limit TV privileges.
Plan a healthy diet for the entire family.
Avoid using food as a reward for good behavior, or withholding a meal as punishment.
Eat meals together and pay attention to portion size.
Chose fruits, vegetables and yogurt as snacks and avoid items high in fat, sugar and calories.
If a child is not hungry, avoid forcing child to eat.
The American Medical Association also recommends that physicians check body mass index (BMI), which is used to gauge obesity, in routine examinations for children.