Recently there has been a big push in the United States to promote health in children. Michelle Obama has worked to try and overhaul school lunches to make them healthier, there is a big focus to practice preventative medicine, parents are becoming more educated on the importance of healthy eating and exercise in children, but even with all of that, there is still a lot of work to be done!
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2012, more than 1/3 of children and adolescents were overweight or obese (link). Thankfully, new studies have shown that there has been a decline in childhood obesity since 2012, but the problem is still huge. To truly reverse this epidemic, changes must first be made in the home.
Healthy living does not always have to take a ton of time or planning, it’s really just about making small changes. Of course, what you do will depend on your families situation, but here are some suggestions that will help teach children how to live a healthy life.
Be an example to them
To me, this is one of the most important things you can do. It is impossible to tell your kids they need to eat healthy and exercise if they do not see you doing the same things. This is one of the reasons I love taking Kate jogging with me. I love to have her see me doing something I enjoy and something that shows her that my health is important to me. Make healthy meals for your family and do not make different, unhealthy food for your kids at meal time. For the most part, they can (and should!) eat all the same healthy food that you are eating.
Get rid of all the junk food
Make after school snacks healthy and nutritious. Not only will it benefit their health, but they will stay full longer if there are nutrients in their food instead of just empty calories! It is much more likely that you and your children will make unhealthy choices if that type of food is readily available. If your kids are always wanting to snack, they probably need to eat a meal. I notice that if I have waited too long to feed Kate, she is constantly wanting to snack. On the other hand, if I stick to a good meal schedule with her, she stays full and is not always going over to the pantry looking for something to grab. Our bodies will crave what they are used to and if they are used to eating junk, that is what they will want. If you need ideas on healthy meals and snacks for kids, go here
Turn off the TV, computer, phones, etc.
This is for both you and your children. Limit time on all electronics and stick to that time limit! Our world today is so based around technology and it is so easy to let your kids move from watching TV, to playing on the computer, to playing games on your phone. Kids (and adults) should not live such a sedentary lifestyle. Make it a point to get outside and run around together! If it is too cold, find somewhere indoors you can go. Going to the mall and letting Kate run up and down the halls has definitely saved us this winter. For adults, be present when you are with your kids-don’t just be playing on your phone the whole time. Again, set a good example to them by turning off electronics.
Plan family outings
Plan to go do something active as a family AT LEAST once a week. This can be a Sunday walk, hiking, swimming, on a bike ride, anything your families enjoys doing. Show kids how great it is to explore our world and how exercise can be fun! This is also a good time to connect with your kids away from everyday life.
Do not sit in front of the TV for meal time
You are much more likely to overeat if you are distracted while eating and this is also true for kids. Use meal time as a time to sit at the table, eat, and talk to each other. Try to have meal time together as often as possible and make this a fun, stress free time together. This helps promote a healthy relationship with food and creates healthy meal time habits.
We all get busy and for some reason, everything seems to go up in smoke as soon as you decide to start making dinner, at least that is true for me! Meal prep really helps to take a lot of the stress out of planning healthy meals. Having pre washed and cut fruits and veggies and other healthy snacks easily available will help your kids make healthy choices. For more on meal prep, check out our post here
Stop putting yourself down
One of the first encounters most kids have with a negative body image comes from their parents. Do not talk about how “fat” you are, how you need to go on a diet, etc. to your children. Instead, teach them to love and take care of their bodies. By doing this, it will in turn help you to love and appreciate your body more. Make healthy eating and healthy living a family thing. This way, kids create the habit and it will become second nature to them. Since finding out I was having a girl, I have consciously made it a point to not put myself down, and especially not in front of her. Unfortunately, she will be exposed to plenty of unhealthy body image issues as she grows up and I do not want that to stem from me. If we can teach our kids by example to be happy with who they are, hopefully when they are exposed to negativity from media, friends, etc, it won’t phase them as much.
Teaching your kids to be healthy is more important now than ever before. I hope some of this information has helped so that you and your family can make healthy lifestyle changes!
What do you and your family like to do for fun?
Photo by Xans Eye Photography