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4 Hidden Pitfalls To Your Child's Diet

We all know that family dinners are good for kids. Study after study has touted benefits, including this one: Kids who regularly eat with their parents have healthier diets than those who share fewer meals. But skipping the family din-din isn't the only way kids are at risk for becoming overweight. More hidden pitfalls:

Fast food near schools
Kids whose schools are less than a half mile from a fast-food place are more likely to be overweight or obese than those who don't have a burger-and-fry joint nearby, according to a new study at Azusa Pacific University, in California. They also eat fewer veggies and fruits -- and drink a lot more soda. It makes sense: Kids probably hang out at fast-food restaurants after school if they're close by. And parents may be more likely to hit the drive-thru on hectic school days (hey, it's right there!).

Constant e-mailing and web surfing
When researchers at the University of Sydney studied 2,750 school-age kids, they found that, on average, the children were sedentary for nearly five hours a day, with half that time spent on "small-screen recreation." When the kids were asked to run, they discovered that those who had the most screen time could do only half the laps their less plugged-in counterparts could. The lesson: It's worth limiting not just TV or video games but also how much time your child spends online, too.

Lingering baby fat
According to a study in Pediatrics, children who were still a little chubby at age 5 are more likely to be overweight and have poorer metabolic health (on measures such as blood pressure and insulin resistance) at 9 than those who were leaner at the same age.

Tuning in during meals
Kids who eat meals while watching TV take in an average of 228 calories more than those who don't, a University of Toronto study found. The distraction may override a child's ability to know when her tummy is full. So how about some dinner conversation instead?