An increasing number of children in the United States are battling obesity. Estimates suggest that up to a quarter of American children are obese.

While obesity may be easy to recognize, it can be a very difficult condition to treat. Obesity is generally defined as when a child’s weight is at least 10 percent or more than what is recommended by medical professionals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for example, provides detailed information on calculating the body mass index (BMI) for children and adults.

Some of the health risks associated with obesity include high blood pressure, diabetes, trouble sleeping and breathing, and an increased risk of heart disease.

Children who are obese may also be more likely to experience social and emotional disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

If you’re interested in keeping your kids active and trying to reduce your risk of obesity, here are 12 tips to promote more activity, healthier eating, and a reduced overall risk of obesity.

  1. Be aware of the types of food your child eats. This may mean preparing more meals with your child so that he knows the ingredients of the food he is eating.
  2. Get active together. Families who play together are more likely to continue the activity. Make daily physical activity a part of your family’s lifestyle, just like brushing your teeth or bathing.
  3. Hydrate. Drinking plenty of water has been shown to control appetite and help limit habit eating rather than genuine hunger.
  4. Stock up on healthy options. It is very important to have a variety of healthy options around the house for meals and snacks. There are many options, including fresh and dried fruits, nuts, vegetables, low-fat dairy products (cheeses, yogurt), whole grain breads, and much more.
  5. Talk about portions. Many people don’t know the basics of portion sizes. Often times it’s less about what you eat and more about how much. Teach your family about healthy portions when preparing and serving meals.
  6. Keep snacks healthy. It can be very difficult to cut out snacks, even when advised by medical professionals and others. Keep healthy snack options on hand so that in the event that snacking occurs, there are good options to turn to.
  7. Involve children in planning and preparing family meals. Get your kids involved in planning family meals and cooking. Children are often more likely to try new vegetables and other foods if they are involved in their preparation (and even growing them).
  8. Don’t reward yourself with high-fat, high-sugar treats. Rewarding kids with candy and other junk food for good behavior is tempting, as many of us love sugary treats, but it’s not a good habit to start with. Try rewarding your kids with a fun family time like a bike ride, time on the playground, or another age-appropriate option that doesn’t involve unhealthy food and drink.
  9. Limit time spent on electronics (TV, video games, computers, etc.) Inactivity is at the center of the childhood obesity epidemic, and much of the time children spend sitting involves some form of electronic activity, be it TV, games computer or something else. Try to put some healthy limits on the amount of time children spend in these types of sedentary activities so that they are free to be more active.
  10. Prioritize the activity. Make physical activity part of your daily routine instead of an unusual sidebar. Remember that small bursts of activity throughout the day tend to add up. Try to incorporate morning and evening activities that all members of your family can enjoy.
  11. Find physical activities that you like. There are so many options for physical activity, whether you like to hike, swim, run, play ball, jump rope, hike, ride your bike, or anything else. If you find activities that you and your children like, you are much more likely to keep doing them.
  12. Model healthy behavior. Remember that your children are watching you for guidance on how to live their lives. While you can provide information about healthy eating and exercise, nothing is more powerful than the daily role model you model for them as an adult.

If you need help with your own activity, nutrition, and weight, seek support from friends, family, and groups like Weight Watchers. The positive changes you make in your own life can also have dramatic positive effects on your children. Before starting a new exercise routine, you may want to consult a sports medicine physician for advice on fitness, exercise, and sports injury prevention. Read more about childhood obesity, including prevention tips.