Leading a healthy lifestyle begins as a child. Here are some tips for encouraging healthy habits with children, that may, in turn, help you lead a healthier lifestyle, too!
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Something I feel very passionate about is teaching Jack healthy habits early on in life. I have struggled with my weight my entire life, especially when I was younger. I was fortunate enough to get my weight under control and learn healthy habits when I was in high school (I lost over 30 pounds without going to an extremes!), but I still struggle! For me, teaching Jack how to eat healthy, be active, and have a healthy lifestyle early on, is extremely important — I don’t want him to go through any of the struggles I have related to that!
I recently read that childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years and about 1 in 3 children in the US are over overweight or obese. Isn’t that scary/sad? While I believe in being happy with yourself, no matter what you look like or weight, I think it’s crucial to combat this, for the sake of our children’s future. I
1. Encourage Outdoor Play
With all the electronics available today, I think kids are playing less and less outside. However, I think one of the best things you can do for your kids is kick them off the couch and send them outside to play. Not only are they active while they do this, but it helps them use their imagination, and, really, just learn to appreciate the outdoors a little bit more.
Better yet, go outside with them! It’s not always possible (assuming you want a tidy house, the laundry done, and a hot dinner) but going outside with your kids is a great idea. Obviously, when they are young, it’s pretty much required that you go out with them — I mean, there’s no way I’m going to send my two-year-old outside by himself! But even if your kids are old enough to go outside, try to take some time to go with them. Even if you aren’t jumping on the tramp or throwing a frisbee with them the whole time, just being out there not only shows that you can leave the house behind, but encourages family togetherness. Which brings me to my next point . . .
2. Family Exercise/Activities
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Play together! Whether it’s throwing a frisbee, shooting hoops, or just going on a walk, exercising together is an awesome family activity. Forrest comes from a very active family, and they all really enjoy playing sports together. While my family always enjoys going on walks, or playing the occasional rousing game of badminton, we’re more of a sitting around and talking type. However, I love that Forrest enjoys playing sports and being active with his family, and that’s something he’s brought to our family as well. We always take time to go outside, throw the football, and kick around balls, and Jack really enjoys it.
We also recently got a membership to our local rec center and this has helped us more consistently exercise and teach Jack how fun it can be! Sometimes we will put him in the child watch (where they are always playing games, running around, etc.) but often we will let Jack go with Forrest to play basketball or one of us will jog with him in our stroller. We always complete our gym trips at the kid’s play center, where Jack has so much fun climbing and jumping. By bringing him with us, we feel like it will teach him to enjoy exercising and being active.
In addition, we recently started using the ibitz by GeoPalz wireless pedometers. These are so neat! Forrest has one, which tracks his steps, activity, etc., and then there is one that Jack uses that is especially for kids. It’s connected to an iPad app, and the more active the child is, the more points they get on the game. Even though Jack is obviously too young to really understand what’s going on, he loves wearing his little tracker because he’s just like daddy, and it’s nice to be able to see that he is getting enough exercise throughout the day. If you have multiple family members, you can form groups so you can share your success together. Parents can set goals for themselves and for their children, such as for play time, screen time, or even going on an adventure with the parent, as well as rewards. The ibitz is also water proof, so it can be worn at all times.
3. Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
Try to always have fruits and vegetables sitting out for easy access. If you teach your children from a young age that these types of foods are a great snack idea, they will probably continue that habit throughout their lives. Of course, cookies are always delicious to have out on occasion but making fruits and vegetables more common than sweets is important.
If your child has issues eating fruits and vegetables, try a variety of fruits until you find a kind they like. Or, you can make it seem a little more enticing — perhaps freeze grapes (they seriously taste like candy!) or have some kind of yummy fruit dip sitting out with the fruit. Maybe even doing on occasional dark chocolate dipped strawberry would be a good way to ease a picky eater into eating more fruits.
4. Serve Healthy Food
When you can, serve meals that contain the following ingredients:
- low-fat or nonfat dairy products
- poultry without skin
- lean cuts of meats
- whole grain breads and cereals
In general, the less processed a food is, the better. Limiting sugar is important as well, as too much sugar is linked to a lot of different health problems. Incoporating the above foods into every day meals ensures your child is getting the best nutrition and is used to eating healthy. Of course, there’s always room for indulging…but if you do that less often, it means more when you do!
5. Limit screen time
You can find a study to support just about anything you want, but I do believe that the increased prevalence of televisions, tablets, and other hand held devices can be directly linked to the obesity rate among children. I’m not one of those people who is against using these devices (I’d be a total hypocrit!), but I feel kids are better off when they spend more time playing and less time looking at a screen.
Giving your child a time limit for using electronic devices is a smart idea. I remember growing up, we were only supposed to watch 30 minutes of television during the school week and that was only after we got our homework done. I feel like that’s a good idea with any type of screen time.
6. Involve children in food prep
I can’t remember where I read it recently, but when children are involved in meal prep, they are more likely to be adventerous with trying new foods and less likely to be picky. I would guess that would be because they will want to try the foods you are making if they were involved in the process.
Coming up with age appropriate ways for your kids to be involved with cooking. When Jack was really little, I would always have him in my Moby wrap as I cooked. Now that he’s getting older, I’m always letting him stir, put things in bowls, and just be involved in the process. I don’t know that it all can be attributed to him helping, but he is probably the least picky eater I’ve ever met. Plus, teaching your kids to cook will hopefully prevent them from eating out all the time when they live on their own, because they are able to make healthy meals for themselves!
7. Practice What you Preach
It doesn’t take a lot of effort to tell your kids to play outside and eat healthy. However, it may take a little more effort to practice what you are teaching them. I mean, if you tell your kids this, while at the same time eating a big ice cream bar and playing with your tablet, it might not be super effective. And I’m not trying to be mean or demeaning at all — I”m guilty of not always doing the healthiest or most productive things either. But it’s about balance. Your children need to see you making smart eating decisions, exercising, and just living a healthy lifestyle. If they don’t, I would be willing to bet they are less likely to do those things themselves.
All in all, do your best. There’s always going to be parents who are perfect at feeding their kids 100% organic everything and never letting them watch TV, but I promise they aren’t perfect in every other area! By trying your best to follow some of the tips above, I believe you’ll be setting your child up for a healthy life!
How do you encourage your child to be healthy?
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