We want our kids to enjoy the most out of life, and a fundamental part of living one’s best life is being mindful of one’s health.
With rates of obesity and obesity-related conditions — like type 2 diabetes — surging nationwide, it’s important we instill in our children the behaviors that will help them live healthy, productive lives and make good decisions as they grow.
Here are three simple habits you can build in your children now that will help them stay healthy for years to come.
Help them develop a taste for healthy foods.
Think about the origins of some of your favorite foods, and you’ll probably find that you developed a taste for them in childhood. We develop a bond with food as we grow that’s deeper than flavor alone. Take this opportunity to introduce your child’s taste buds to healthy fare, and he or she will carry that preference throughout his or her life!
Keep a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in the house, so a go-to snack is a banana, apple or carrot sticks and ranch — not chips or cookies.
Pay attention to portion sizes and servings, so your child is accustomed to eating healthy and appropriately sized portions of food.
When they’re thirsty, offer water rather than sugary juices and serve low-fat milk with meals.
Keep them moving.
It’s no secret that a physically active lifestyle is essential, but it’s much easier to keep moving than it is to start moving.
Limit screen time so they’re not spending their days in front of a television or game console, but instead are exercising their bodies outdoors.
Make fitness a family affair. Take the kids for a walk or hike at a local park, pack a lunch and plan a long ride on the Carrollton GreenBelt, or just take the opportunity to go out in the yard to lob some shots at that old basketball hoop next to the driveway.
Look for community recreation opportunities, like local sports leagues. Ask your child if he or she has ever wanted to play a sport or try an activity. If cost is an issue, some municipal recreation departments offer discounts or help with necessary safety equipment.
Set the example.
You’re your child’s most influential teacher, and he or she is going to model the behaviors they observe in you.
Don’t use tobacco. And if you do use tobacco, stop. Studies have shown that parents who use tobacco are more likely to have children who use tobacco. In addition, children with a sibling who uses tobacco are themselves more likely to use tobacco. So if you smoke, your kids are more likely to smoke — and if one child takes up your habit, the odds are better other children will, too.
Use alcohol in moderation — or not at all. If you need help overcoming alcohol use (or other substance dependency issues), you can find help with a free, confidential behavioral health assessment from Willowbrooke at Tanner. You can call the 24-hour help line at 770-812-9551.
Be active, watch your diet and take care of yourself. Go to your physician for health exams and screenings, take medications as prescribed and generally demonstrate that you value your health. This shows your children that they should take their health seriously, too.
If ever you’re looking for more ways to encourage your child toward a healthy lifestyle, it’s always OK to have a candid conversation with your child’s primary medical provider. We, too, are focused on the wellness of children, and we’re happy and eager to share clinical insights into what we can do together to help children stay healthy and active. Your child’s well visit appointments, for instance, are a great opportunity to talk.