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Q: I'm a single parent with a very active life between my job and two daughters. I need to get both of my girls to lose weight -- with our schedules, we do eat out a lot. Do you have any advice on setting up structured eating habits and a good diet? Both girls enjoy sports, but do not try as hard now that they are heavy.
A: Don't emphasize losing weight. Focus on your daughters' good health and good nutrition. Consult with your pediatrician about the girls' general health and weight issues. Consider your own health, too. You may not be overweight, but my guess is that your eating habits will catch up with you too as you mature. So make good health and energy a family project.
Eat a good breakfast -- cereal, whole-grain breads, waffles, fruit, real juice, eggs. Don't buy snack foods and keep plenty of fresh fruit around. Where do you eat dinner? Turn off the TV. Talk to each other. The temptation is to buy prepared foods or go to a local take-out place, but both kinds of food are high in saturated fats. Many simple, nutritious meals can be put together in less than half an hour. Plan, plan, plan until it is routine. Prepare meals together and/or let your daughters take turns planning and preparing dinner at least once a week. Use these quick and healthy recipes suggested from other parents.
Encourage your daughters to continue their sports. Don't worry how hard they try -- activity is the important thing. Try to take a walk or play an active game with them every day, if only for 10 to 15 minutes. On weekends, all of you plan your meals for the coming week. Play together a lot -- walking, biking, skating -- whatever keeps all of you physically, mentally, and emotionally active.
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Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.