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Healthy Kid Tips

In the past decade, I've seen more and more overweight children in my pediatric practice. It concerns me because I know that an overweight child's more likely to become an overweight adult, and that in turn can lead to many health problems.

As I work with parents to help heavy kids get to a healthier weight—and all of my patients to develop a better lifestyle—many have come to me with questions. My answers to some of the most common ones:

My preschooler has a serious weight problem, and now that my 1-year-old is on solids, I'm afraid she'll develop one too. What can I do to help prevent that as she gets older?

Look back to when your first child started to eat food and ask how you might have made better health choices. That's what my wife, Martha, and I did with each of our kids. Here's what we've realized works best:

Ignore the "clean your plate" rule. Kids should stop eating when they're full. The habit of finishing everything no matter what can be quite a difficult one to break down the road.

Don't push seconds. If your child's still hungry, she'll ask for more! This will teach her to listen to her body's cues to determine when she's had enough to eat.

Train her taste buds. A child who grows up eating wholesome, fresh foods may learn to prefer them for the rest of her life. Our son Matthew never ate junk food as a toddler, and later on, when he was offered cake and candy at birthday parties and school, he didn't overdose on sweets.

Avoid eating family style. It's just too tempting to reach for an extra helping of food if it's sitting right in front of you. So fill each plate with an age-appropriate serving -- and leave the rest in the kitchen.

From Dr. Sears' LEAN Kids, by William Sears, M.D. Copyright 2003 by Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears. Published by NAL Signet, a member of the Penguin Group (USA), Inc.