Obesity in kids has reached epidemic proportions in the United States as the number of overweight children has doubled in the last two decades. According to the National Institutes of Health about 20 percent of children and adolescents are overweight. The increase is in all age, race and gender groups and can be traced to unhealthy diets and insufficient exercise. Children aren't born with a taste for salt or fats or sugary foods, but they may acquire a taste for them, if that's what they're fed. Many prepared and processed foods have a high sugar and salt content, so it's important to read labels. Billions of dollars are spent in advertising foods that aren't healthy. It's also sometimes difficult to resist the convenience of fast-food restaurants, especially those that cater to kids. However, it's important for you to model healthful eating habits. Set aside time to prepare healthy meals at home, engage children in the process, and sit down together as a family at mealtime. You can also set a good example by being physically active. Keep in mind that in addition to the physical and health problems that result when a child or adolescent is overweight, he or she also may be subjected to teasing or social isolation from peers. An obese child needs your support and to be taught how to eat properly for life, not just be put on a diet. The child's physical and emotional health depend on it!