Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY
By Stockbyte

Combine produce like an apple with protein for a snack, dietitians say.

Do you and your family want to get healthier? Maybe change your diet, drop a few pounds and gain some muscle tone? You can do it, and the experts with the Family Fitness Challenge can help.

The challenge, an initiative of USA TODAY, USA WEEKEND Magazine and The Doctors TV show, launches today and runs through the end of April. Six registered dietitians with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics are working with families in the challenge to offer them ideas for eating healthier. Here are some of their ideas:

Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian in Chicago and the author of The Flexitarian Diet:

• Clean house. Clear all treats, sweets and tempting snack foods from your kitchen. Out of sight equals out of mouth.

• Snack smart. The best snacks combine produce and protein. Some examples: one apple and 10 almonds; 1 cup of carrots with 4 tablespoons of hummus; 6 ounces of low-fat plain yogurt with ½ cup berries.

• Work as a family to plan dinners. Each family member should be assigned a day and plan a healthful dinner that will be 25% grain, 25% protein and 50% produce.

• Have fast fallbacks. Create three super fast, no-recipe-needed, grab-and-go meals. Always have the ingredients on hand and some food prepared in advance for the quick meals. To do this you may need to use the weekend to prep grilled meats, grilled vegetables and cook whole-grain pasta, brown rice or potatoes.

• Plan your restaurant meals. Pick your top three to five dining out locations and find meals of 500 calories or fewer that you would enjoy. Check their websites. Make a list of these meals and keep them with you, in your phone or car.

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