As a parent, it’s important to provide the opportunity for your children to make healthy lifestyle choices. Children’s health can be affected by a variety of areas, from the foods they eat to their daily routine. Here are several areas that are important to healthy kids, plus some tips to lead them down the right track.
One of the primary factors in children’s health is the food they put in their bodies on a daily basis. Here are some tips for improving the quality of their meals:
- Use smaller plates: Serve family meals on a salad plate instead of a dinner plate. This will help kids control portion sizes and avoid overeating.
- Serve more fruits and veggies: Fill half the plate with fruits and veggies first, even at breakfast. Ask kids which ones they’d prefer, and let them pick them out at the store—they’ll be more likely to eat them later.
- Use lean protein: Fill half of the remaining space on the plate with lean meat, fish, beans or tofu. The protein in these foods help build muscle and keep appetites from becoming out of control.
- Substitute with whole grains: Eat more whole grains like brown rice, a whole-wheat roll or quinoa. Whole grains have more nutrients than refined grains.
Try low-fat dairy: Kids over 9 and adults need three servings of dairy per day (a serving can be a cup of lowfat milk or yogurt, or a slice of cheese). Younger kids need four servings, but smaller sizes.
- Use water as a substitute: If kids don’t like milk, substitute it with water. Add flavor with lemon or other fruit slices.
- Avoid extras like croutons, sauces, cheese or dressings.
- Serve dessert in moderation: You can have dessert, but just not at every meal. Use small portions, and eat more natural treats like fruit.
- Choose healthy snacks: Snacking can be okay if the options are healthy. Keep sliced veggies with healthy dips, or make snack-sized bags so kids don’t eat too much. Keep healthy, whole-grain options around.
- Never skip breakfast: Kids who skip breakfast can be cranky, tired, unfocused and more likely to eat unhealthy snacks. Choose a breakfast with a combination of fiber and lean protein, plus whole grains and fruit.
Exercise is also vital for children’s health. Here are some tips for getting them to enjoy their exercise:
- Do it together: Make fun activities for the whole family to keep kids active.
- Aim for an hour a day: Help keep your kids moving for 60 minutes per day. This doesn’t have to be all at one time, and you can mix up activities between strengthening, cardio and muscle work.
- Get a step counter: Kids love technology, and a step counter can encourage them to move more.
- Try fun gear: In some cases, the simplest bits of equipment can provide a lot of fun. Keep a good stash of outdoor toys available.
- Enroll your kids in classes: Shop around for classes kids can take, such as dance, tennis or karate.
- Play video games that keep kids active: Video games like the Kinect or Wii involve motion and fitness, and these games are great for helping kids burn energy.
- Encourage healthy behavior: Praise what kids do, and help them try new activities that don’t necessarily have to be competitive.
- Sneak in more movement: Find ways to sneak in more movement. Park far away from entrances to buildings, or take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Your Own Health
Some of being a good parent to healthy children involves being healthy yourself. Consider all the elements that affect your mood and wellbeing, from diet and exercise to family time and various responsibilities. Focus on a regular routine for yourself that promotes healthy habits—as your kids see you do this, hopefully they’ll emulate it.
Establish A Routine
The whole family needs a good routine to stay healthy. Kids are more likely to eat properly and sleep well when they stick to a routine. Here are some basic areas for everyone in the family to remember:
- Bedtime: Sleep affects health for both kids and adults. Get kids to bed 10 minutes earlier each night until you reach their ideal bedtime—younger kids can use a chart to track this. Kids will be more cooperative with bedtime if you set the example and adhere to your own bedtime as well.
- Meal schedules: As often as possible, plan scheduled family meals. Even if the daily routine has to change, find ways to label your dinner routines.
- Move: Show kids that staying active is simply part of the day. Limit screen time and emphasize family movement regularly.
- Planning: When you go on trips, plan for ways to create some continuity upon your return. Things like bedtime routines, good-night songs and stuffed animals can help. Don’t go overboard, and allow some flexibility here.
Your family doctor can offer more tips on raising healthy children.
Revere Health Orem Family Medicine is devoted to comprehensive healthcare for patients of all ages, and committed to provide thorough and timely health care for the entire family throughout all stages of life.
“Raising fit Kids: Healthy Nutrition, Exercise and Weight.” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/parenting/raising-fit-kids/default.htm
“How to Raise Fit Kids in a Fattening World.” Prevention.com. https://www.prevention.com/health/healthy-living/fit-kids-fat-world