According to the Journal of American Medicine, nearly 32 percent of American children between the ages of 2 and 19 need to lose weight to avoid chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Military families aren't exempt; a 2005 survey reported that nearly 20 percent of Department of Defense teenagers are obese. Obesity means an individual is more than 20 percent more than his or her ideal weight. Keep in mind the causes of obesity in children: diets high in fatty foods and calories, inactivity, easy access to salty and sweet snacks at home, and even a child's emotional well-being. So how can parents combat poor eating habits early, especially when obese children are likely to carry their weight into adulthood? Be a role model It's true, kids watch their parents in action. If Mom and Dad eat right and exercise enough, most likely, Junior will too. Here are a few helpful starting points: Pack their school lunches. While most schools have hired a registered dietitian for school meals, not all options are the healthiest. Parents who pack their kids' lunches and snacks take away the choice of pizza over a tuna sandwich with whole grain bread. Just give them the sandwich. Visit www.mypyrmaid.gov for some interactive nutrition guidance for both kids and parents. Know your calories. Which has more calories: a 3 ounce rib eye steak, broiled, with 0 inches trim, or a donut with chocolate icing? The answer is the donut, with 258 calories, versus 210 calories packed with healthy protein and iron from the steak. Read up on different food choices to help you make the best nutritional decisions for yourself and your child. Choose the healthier food when eating out. Next time, ask for dressing and sauces on the side and choose broiled or baked foods over fried. Find more great ideas on www.triwest.com/eathealthy. Play ball and have fun. Parents can take away couch time and make it a family fun day, encouraging physical activity. Run through the sprinklers; toss a Frisbee in the park or do an art project. Do whatever it takes to get the kids moving. Eat your greens. Try to set an example by eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables every day. Parents can also practice portion control as a family, including the children in this behavior by using smaller plates. Doctors can provide information about the healthy weight ranges for kids and offer advice on proper diet and exercise plans. It's a good idea to discuss this with your child's doctor before starting a new routine. Remember, one healthy choice a week adds up, whether it's adding more vegetables or turning off the TV for an extra hour. Start today by visiting www.triwest.com/eathealthy.