When asked what they want for their children, most parents will simply say health and happiness. The two go hand-in-hand but are threatened by fast food, cigarettes and illegal drugs, and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. These tips can help you hit back against these forces and encourage healthy childhood habits.
1. Help Them Find Physical Activity They Love
Getting your children off the couch and moving is one of the keys to improving their health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says children and adolescents should be physically active for at least 60 minutes every day. Do your children get that much exercise?
Encouraging your child to join a school or community sporting team is one of the easiest ways to increase their physical activity. However, some kids hate team sports. If your children aren’t cut out for these activities, don’t give up. Perhaps they’d like to take up dancing or learn a martial art. Maybe they’d enjoy family bike rides or trips to the roller skating rink. Help your children find the physical activity they enjoy and encourage it so they get the exercise they need.
2. Prepare and Eat Dinner as a Family
Nutritious eating is a key component of good health that should start at home. Preparing healthy food and eating dinner as a family can be a hassle, but it’s worth making time for these healthy habits.
Rather than preparing meals alone, invite your kids into the kitchen. They’ll feel more comfortable trying new nutritious foods if they’ve helped prepare them. Spending time in the kitchen as kids will give them the skills they need to prepare meals when they move out of the home. If you know you’ll have a busy week ahead, get your kids to help you prepare several portions you can freeze.
Eating dinner at home as a family lets you control what goes into your children’s mouths, and how much of it. Studies show the average restaurant meal has as much as 60 percent more calories than a home-cooked meal. Children who eat at home with their families also tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and less fried foods.
3. Model Healthy Habits
Your children look up to you and expect you to lead by example. When they see you making healthy choices, they’ll be more likely to do the same. That’s why the children of smokers are three times more likely to smoke than the kids of non-smoking parents, according to the American Journal of Public Health.
Keep this in mind as you go about your day. Reach for a piece of fruit instead of chips when you’re feeling hungry between meals. Make time to cycle or walk to work instead of driving. Only drink alcohol in moderation if you drink in front of your kids at all. Keep healthy habits and you’ll have an easier time convincing your kids to do the same.
The positive habits your children get into when they’re young can set them up for a lifetime of good health. Take the steps above and you can give your children their best chance of growing into happy, healthy adults.