In our efforts to protect our children from succumbing to what seems like an epidemic in obesity, families need to look at the big picture. Yes, it has a little to do with limiting sugary drinks, but it has more to do with moving, connecting with your children and modeling healthy behaviors.

Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years. And while that statistic is indeed staggering, it helps to zoom out a little and start focusing on the basics. In our technology-driven and convenience-laden culture, some of these basics have fallen to the wayside. Sometimes, less is more and oversimplifying a complex issue actually helps families feel in control.

Sure, we can't change genetics, but we sure can change our habits.

Here are my tips for warding off childhood obesity and upping your overall health as parents too:

Focus on food

Sounds counterintuitive, but putting the focus on healthy eating is important.

  • Always have breakfast. Whether it's a Go-Gurt yogurt and a whole grain waffle on the go (yes, I've been there) or pancakes and strawberries, make sure your children have something before heading out that door.
  • Pack a simple lunch. I wish I could master the beautiful and healthy looking bento boxes. My reality is that I barely have time to comb my hair and put makeup on before rushing us all out the door. Add two packed lunches to the morning rush and I need simple. Protein + fruit/veggie + drink (and maybe a small treat) are really all you need. Just remember, kids will eat the unhealthiest item first (wouldn't you?). I'm constantly reminding my kids, eat your sandwich first please... they usually do.
  • Have water on hand. Send your kids to school with a refillable water bottle. Filling their tank with necessary hydration will not only keep them well hydrated on busy and hot days, it will avoid them filling up on sugary (high calorie) drinks.
  • Eat together. Weeknights are crazy busy. I know. Do your best to sit down together whenever you can. It's not only a chance to reconnect after a long day, it's an opportunity to model healthy eating habits and to encourage your kids to try new foods.

Clock those zzz's

Sleep is so important. It's absolutely vital to your child's emotional, physical and cognitive health. I know, wow, right? Too little of it and not only is your little one prone to more meltdowns, but in the long haul, sleep deprivation can lead to obesity.

  • Make sure your school-age child gets around 10-11 hours per night. Teens should get 8.5-9.5 per night.
  • Have a consistent and calming bedtime routine. No excuses. Do not pass go... it's bedtime.
  • Keep TVs and other handheld electronics (iPhones, iPads, etc.) out of your child's bedroom. In fact, cut screen time at least 1 hour before bed.
  • If your child wakes up frequently or snores often at night, discuss the possibility of OSA with her doctor.

Get up and play

Children need 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity per day. Some children do this naturally -- they're constantly in motion when given the freedom to just run. However, many kids today are just not moving as much.

  • Get your child signed up for an organized sport. It's a great way to have designated play time and forces everyone to get up and out a couple of times per week.
  • Go for after dinner walks or bike rides.
  • Limit screen time (this includes iPhones, DS games, etc.) to less than 2 hours per day. Instead, take the kids to the park if you can. Or, have a dance party in your living room.
  • Exercise together: swimming, yoga, biking, running... you name it. As kids get older, they can (and usually want to) exercise with you.

Dr. MOm's Bottom Line^ When it comes to childhood obesity, I really do think it's time to get back to basics. Eat, sleep, play. Focus on doing these three things right and your children will be on their way to building lifelong healthy habits.

More on your child's health

5 Common back-to-school illnesses
Connecting kids with nature
Kid-friendly recipes with five ingredients or less