There is a lot to do in little time. But the stakes are high. Today, many kids are overweight or obese. A healthy, active lifestyle can help maintain weight. It also can prevent health issues, such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and high blood pressure. Teaching your children to make healthy choices doesn’t need to be complicated or daunting. Easy-to-manage, simple adjustments to your current routine are all you need to keep your kids on track. Working on healthy decision making as a family is also a great way to reinforce the principles of healthy living for children.
They soak up new information and learn quickly. Below, you’ll find ideas and tips to help you teach kids about making smart decisions for overall health. Before you know it, your kids will be empowered to choose healthy options on their own. Kids need balanced meals and snacks to power their play and support their growth. Fiber-rich foods are the key to lasting energy for fueling days of fun. Adults already know the importance of fiber. Once you’ve reached adulthood, you’ve heard “eat more fiber” too many times to count. So, pass along your wisdom and show your kids why they need it, too.
Cold water is the best thirst-quencher. And there’s a reason your school cafeteria offers cartons of milk. Kids need calcium to build strong bones, and milk is a great source of this mineral. How much do kids need? If you are 4 to 8 years old, drink 2½ cups of milk a day, or its equivalent. If you’re 9 or older, aim for 3 cups of milk per day, or its equivalent. You can mix it up by having milk and some other calcium-rich dairy foods.
Make half your meals fruits and vegetables. This is our number one recommendation. Kids who eat fruits and veggies at every meal fill up on high-fiber, high-nutrient foods in the right portions. And don’t worry if your picky eaters aren’t biting yet. Keep serving balanced meals and modeling healthy eating. Reduce added sugars. The average child gets 16% of their total calories from added sugars, a whopping 10 teaspoons per day! Added sugar has been linked to childhood obesity, chronic diseases, behavior problems, and more! Keep this number between 0-5%. See 50 low-sugar snack ideas here.
Be active by playing together. Kids need at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Play with your kids every day. It’s fun for them and fun for you too. Consider checking out your local community center for kid-friendly activities. Plan family activities that get everyone moving such as biking, after-dinner walks, basketball or soccer at the park.
Make family mealtimes a special time together. Eating more meals together can make a big difference in your family’s health, happiness and finances. Dinners made at home are less costly than eating out and easier to prepare than you might think.
Eat breakfast. Go beyond cereal and milk and try a breakfast burrito made with a scrambled egg, cheese and salsa wrapped in a flour tortilla. Also, teach kids to use the blender to make their own breakfast smoothie or serve a yogurt bar with low-fat plain or vanilla-flavored yogurt. Add toppings like whole grain cereal, dried fruit and unsalted nuts.
Don’t forbid foods or use food as a reward. Forbidding foods only increases a child’s desire for that food. Instead of saying no to your child’s favorite food, limit the portion size. Use non-food rewards for good behavior such as stickers or allowing your child to have a friend over to play. Dine out responsibly. When dining at a restaurant, look for nutritious options on the children’s menu such as a grilled chicken wrap, carrots with dip and fruit. If you order takeout or home delivery, remember that you can add to the meal by serving a glass of low-fat milk or adding a side salad.