There are some scary statistics out there, but few come close to the growing childhood obesity rate. Currently, about one in five school-aged children are obese and many more are overweight. Even worse is that obese children are more likely to be obese as adults.
The problem is a combination of diet and lack of physical activity. In today’s culture there are too many fast food options and too much couch-based entertainment. The sooner you can start breaking bad habits and encouraging the good ones, the easier it will be for your whole family to live a healthy lifestyle. Use these 10 tips to teach your kids the importance of eating healthy and exercising.
Know What’s Healthy
Before you can help your kids make better food and exercise choices, you have to know what is and isn’t healthy. You can do that by:
- · Checking the nutritional labels of food.
- · Reading through the most recent dietary guidelines.
- · Knowing which produce is most susceptible to pesticides.
- · Talking with your pediatrician.
Set Limits and Set a Good Example
One of the most important things a parent can do is set limits. Without clear limitations, kids are left to make the judgment call themselves, which isn’t usually the healthiest option. Kids can benefit from both screen time limits and junk food limits.
It’s also important for parents to set a good example. How can we expect our kids to make healthy choices if we ourselves aren’t doing the same? Do your part by buying healthy foods and getting the recommended amount of weekly physical activity.
Join a Family-Friendly Gym
When it comes to physical activity it helps to have access to gym equipment, pools, tracks and other fitness amenities. Joining a family-friendly gym like Fitness 19 can encourage kids to be active. It’s also a good way to show your kids that there are lots of ways to exercise and get them immersed in an environment that promotes physical activity.
Get Your Kids a Playset
One of the quickest ways to get kids running around outside is to put a playset in the yard. Kids will spend hours swinging, sliding and climbing without ever realizing they’re getting exercise.
Take Family Hikes
There are many benefits to hiking a nature trail and these go beyond just exercise. New research is finding that walks out in nature can reduce stress while helping quiet negative thoughts. Family hikes are also a great activity since it’s exercise you can do together.
Sign Up for a Sports Team
Like hiking, joining a sports team can be beneficial beyond getting physical activity. Research has shown that kids who join a sports team:
- · Develop leadership skills
- · Build camaraderie and teamwork skills
- · Gain a sense of belonging
- · Improve their social skills
- · Are less likely to be overweight or obese
Create a Menu of Healthy, Kid-Friendly Food
Make a conscious effort to eat out less and make more healthy meals at home. Meal planning is one of the best ways to help your family stick to a healthy diet. When you’re trying to help your kids develop healthy eating habits it’s a good idea to make the menu kid-friendly. There are lots of recipes with healthy alternatives to kid favorites, like homemade chicken fingers and hamburger salad.
Pack Healthy Lunches
Follow up dinner with a healthy lunch the next day. Some schools have gotten better about the foods that are served to students, but it’s still usually healthier to pack your kid’s lunch. Just make sure to keep the portions appropriate and cover all the food groups.
Make Healthy Snacks Easily Accessible
One reason kids reach for unhealthy snacks is they’re easy to eat. Processed snacks are already prepared and ready to be eaten. You can encourage your kids to eat healthier snacks by buying pre-packed options or preparing them at home. Fruit is a good example. If you wash it, cut it up and put it into a container kids will be more likely to grab it when they are looking for something to eat.
Get Your Kids Involved
No matter how you decide to get healthy, you’ll want to get your kids involved in the process. Take them grocery shopping at the farmer’s market, let them help you create a weekly dinner menu and allow them to choose their own physical activities. The more involved they are in the decision making the more invested they’ll be in the results.