A new year is a great time to jumpstart your children’s healthy habits and keep them in check throughout the year. Developing good eating habits and encouraging physical activities now will reap lifelong benefits.
Set a Good Example – Children practice what they see. Get the whole family involved. Be a positive role model by practicing the same healthy habits that you are trying to foster in your child. Turn family time into an opportunity to teach your children about good nutrition, as well as a time to plan active family outings.
Make it Easy – Keep your kids healthy by making it easier to eat nutritious foods. Cut up fruits and vegetables and keep them where they are easy to pick up. Keep sports equipment, such as balls, Frisbees, jump ropes, etc. visible. Keep the focus on having fun, such as walking the dog, playing hide-and-seek, family walks after dinner or weekend hikes.
Make Healthy Eating a Game – Make fruits and vegetables fun by incorporating a broad range of different colors, such as greens, yellows, oranges, reds and blues into your child’s daily diet. Aim to serve fruits and vegetables in every meal, and have your child research the nutritional benefits of the foods you serve.
Set Limits – Set limits on television viewing and the amount of time that your children spend playing computer games. Instead, set goals for daily physical activities and on the amount of nutritious foods that your children eat.
Eat a Good Breakfast – Providing your child with a healthy, well-balanced breakfast sets the pace for the day. Make sure that it includes fiber, protein, and some fruit for an energetic start.
Physical Activity – Help your child find physical activities that they enjoy and are likely to continue, such as biking, swimming, running, or playing basketball or football with family and friends. It doesn’t have to be organized sports; the important thing is to keep them moving.
Sleep – It’s essential that children get the sleep they need for their age group. A lack of sleep increases obesity, as well as learning and behavioral problems. Between the ages of 1-10, most children need between 10-14 hours of sleep, while teens need approximately 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep.
Meal Planning - Get your children involved in planning and cooking family meals. It is an opportunity for them to understand how meals are prepared and how they can use different ingredients to make them healthier. Teach them to read the nutritional information on food labels and what they should avoid.
Stress Management – Even in childhood, stress increases the likelihood of chronic illnesses, depression, and other emotional and behavioral problems. Help your child develop good stress management skills by urging good eating habits, physical activities, and free time to relax with family and friends.
Treats – Limit unhealthy foods, but don’t eliminate them entirely. Make a distinction between nutritious foods that your child should eat every day and foods that they can eat occasionally, as treats, such as ice cream, candy, soda and pastries.
Healthy habits promote success. Forging good habits in your children now will make it much more likely that they will continue these healthy habits as they get older.