One of the most satisfying legacies we can leave our children is a commitment to health -and it’s never been more important. According to the CDC, nearly 1 out of 6 children is struggling with obesity. Cases of Type 2 diabetes in children, which is preventable, are on the rise as well. We all want better for our kids, but staying healthy is a struggle for many of us. Here are some small lifestyle changes you can make today that will impact your kids in a big way.
Watching too much television and playing too many video games are some of the easiest bad habits for children to pick up and they can be major factors in an unhealthy lifestyle. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these activities, but kids rarely have the discipline to stop on their own (many times it’s hard for parents, too.)
Try setting time limits or reserving these activities for certain times of the day or days of the week. Or make TV and game-time a privilege to be earned by doing chores or reading books.
Exercise as a family.
Set aside a time at least two or three days a week for exercising together. The sky is the limit on fun ideas for being active. Take advantage of the local park system for hiking or biking. Sign up for swimming lessons in your particular area to learn safety and gain confidence in and out of the water. Gather a group of friends for a child-friendly game of volleyball, kickball, or basketball.
And of course, staying active can be as simple as playing tag, having footraces in the yard, or going for an after-dinner walk in the neighborhood. Your family will not only be healthier, you’ll be building memories, as well.
Use food preparation as an educational experience.
Too often the routine of grocery shopping and food preparation becomes a dreaded chore for mom or dad. But if the family participates, it can be much more fun. When children are little, start explaining what you’re looking for and teaching them where to focus in the store – along the outside edge, in the produce, dairy, and meat sections. Most kids are curious, and they’ll let you explain the benefits of these nutrient-dense foods and how to avoid the processed foods that fill the middle aisles.
Let them choose the fruits and vegetables for the week. Once you get home, let them watch or help (age-appropriately) as you prepare the healthy food you bought. If you have the resources available, consider growing a small garden. Kids love to get dirty, and most will be fascinated by the growing process. Growing a colorful variety of foods at home just might tempt them to try new foods.
Lead by example.
While leading by example is perhaps one of the hardest things to do, it also “speaks” the loudest to our kids. When you’re dining out as a family, let them see you choosing well, by ordering salads, grilled meats over fried, fruits and vegetables instead of French fries, and by avoiding sugary soda drinks. Teach them that it’s okay to splurge, as long as it’s not every day. Do as I say and not as I do is usually a formula for failure.
There’s never been a better time to get healthy together. Start small, with one idea or two, and integrate them into your family’s lifestyle until it feels natural. Then keep the snowball rolling with more activities and choices, until your kids have made their own commitment to health.
Anica is a professional content and copywriter who graduated from the University of San Francisco. She loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she’s used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here. Anica writes on behalf of Swimjim, which offers swimming lessons in NYC for children and adults.
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