As adults, we understand the importance of our daily habits. We have a pretty good idea of how our choices can impact our health and are less likely to think we are invincible. Whether we have always lived a healthy lifestyle or learned what that looks like for ourselves later in life, there is no doubt that we as parents are always trying to create the best life we can for our kids!
Imagine being able to set your children up for success by giving them the tools to create the habits to have a healthy and balanced life—almost so they really do not know any different! WHERE DO I SIGN UP FOR THAT, AM I RIGHT??
As a mom, I have learned that in order to help my kids WANT to choose to live a healthy lifestyle, there has to be a balance and there also has to be a choice. A balance of activity and chilling with a video game every now and then, a balance of an abundance of fruits and vegetables (made to taste good!), and some junk food here and there. Teaching them this balance, is not only educating them but allowing them to make choices…as long as good choices are made too! It is really no different than the way, we as adults, want to optimize the balance of living a healthy and happy life!
Active life tips:
The CDC recommends 60 minutes of vigorous activity EVERY DAY—these minutes can be shorter periods of activity throughout the day. So how do we get our kids to move enough?
Always encourage kids in any active behavior—beyond organized sports & school gym classes, activities to incorporate to your kids’ days include building obstacle courses, nerf gun fights in the house, riding bikes, swimming, jumping on the trampoline, skateboarding, sledding, anything that gets their body moving and their heart pumping!
Invite your kids friends over and send them outside to create games and activities. and any backyard games! A group of kids using their imaginations (without phones and computers) to come up with activities is much easier than trying to send your kid outside to play alone.
Incorporate active family time like walks or bike rides after dinners, weekend morning workouts or special activities as a family, and make it FUN—let the kids create the workout or choose the activity!
Movement can be anything that isn’t sedentary. Get kids off the couch with chores around the house, dusting/vacuuming, walking the dog, putting laundry away, mowing the lawn, shoveling the driveway, etc.
From the foods you offer at meals or snack times, kids should be allowed to choose which items they want, how much they want or whether to eat at all (having a consistent schedule for meals and snacks helps all of us). This doesn’t mean you offer them multiple options for meals, simply that It is important for kids to have some say in their choices. This may seem like a little too much freedom, but at the end of the day, your kids will be choosing only from the foods you buy and serve.
Let kids stop eating when they feel they’ve had enough. Forcing kids to finish all of the food on their plate doesn’t help kids listen to their own bodies when they feel full. When kids notice and respond to feelings of fullness, they’re less likely to overeat—this creates healthy food habits for LIFE!
Food preferences develop early, so it is very important to offer a variety of foods with young kids. Likes and dislikes begin forming even when kids are babies. You may need to serve a new food a few different times. Without forcing a child to eat all of a new food, do offer a few bites. With older kids, ask them to at least try one bite.
Finally, do not reward behavior or accomplishments with food or treats as this can begin to encourage kids to use food as a way to control emotions and cope with stress. Instead, keep treats for special occasions and events. Don’t encourage dessert as a reason to finish dinner. Desserts should be offered on occasional special occasions vs as a daily routine.
Remember, YOU are their greatest role model for healthy habits whether that is staying active or choosing quality food most of the time. Prioritizing a healthy lifestyle for yourself is the number one way to encourage the same for your kids!
Sara Kohn, B.S.-Exercise Science
Medical Fitness Specialist