Healthstyle Blog

Fit Kids: Encouraging Healthy Habits in Kids

All parents want their kids to be as healthy as they can possibly be. But despite well-meaning intentions, childhood obesity is still a rampant problem. Finding ways to prevent childhood obesity is a cause I am very passionate about. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one third of U.S. children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2012. The childhood obesity rate has more than doubled in children (and quadrupled in adolescents) over the past 30 years. This figure is alarming because science has so frequently linked childhood obesity to other dangerous health issues including diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, and breathing difficulties.

Fortunately, we—as parents—can turn this trend around. It’s possible to develop healthy habits in our children during their formative years. These habits will then stay with them into adulthood—preparing them for a lifetime of healthier living. Consider the following suggestions to get started.

Teach your children about healthy nutrition. Fast food is an easy option for busy parents but it sends our children the wrong message (i.e. convenience is more important than substance). Make it your goal to cook healthy meals at home whenever possible. Even better, get your kids involved in grocery shopping and meal preparation. Look through cookbooks or search for healthy recipes online. Then let your children choose what they want you to create in the kitchen together. My 13 –year old knows how to make  breakfast and now he enjoys making breakfast for himself and his younger brother. This summer I’m on a mission to teach my 10 year old how to make breakfast meals.

Teach your children about portion control. Don’t insist that your kids “clean” their plates. Doing so can lead to the ingestion of too many calories and encourage overindulgence in food and unnecessary weight gain. Let you children help you measure out healthy portions at meal times and then suggest they stop eating when they are full, even if that means leaving food on their plates. We all have our own internal signals within our bodies that let us know when we are full. Start now to teach your children to be aware and learn not to ignore them.

Show your kids how to exercise. According to some experts, only half of children and teens between the ages of 12 to 21 regularly exercise. Kids naturally model their parents’ behavior, so starting a regular exercise program of your own is a simple way to encourage them to do the same. Even better, hit the trails for a run or tackle a fitness boot camp in the park together. Make exercise part of your daily routine as a family. Walking is a great way to get in shape and a great opportunity for you to explore and spend time as a family. I started a fitness regime for the summer with input from both my boys. If you involve them in the process, they are more likely to do it. I will keep you posted. Stay tuned for a family fitness challenge for the summer (July). I will be exercising with my sons this summer and will be posting videos.

Limit screen time. According to HealthyChildren.org, most kids spend an average of three hours every day watching television. This figure does not include the additional time they spend on the computer or playing console or handheld video games. Unfortunately, all this screen time encourages sedentary behavior. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you allow children no more than one to two hours of total screen time each day. Encourage them to use the rest of their free time for physical activities. I spoke to my pediatrician about this a few days ago and the recommended amount of time for screen time is 2 hours per day. During the school year that is a doable goal, however now that my boys are on summer holidays it is harder to enforce. However our goal is to reduce screen time over the summer to 3 hours (ipad, television, phone, etc) per day.

What plans do you have for your children? Does it include more movement? Are you incorporating any of the tips listed above? I love hearing from you so go ahead and leave your comments.

To Your Vibrant Health

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