For many parents, it’s a daily struggle to make sure the kids get well-balanced meals, exercise every day, and aren’t engaging in unhealthy activities. But you don’t have to feel stressed or overwhelmed when it comes to your children’s health. Incorporating some simple life changes at home will help everyone stay on a healthy track and will give you peace of mind.
Starting these habits at a young age is especially helpful, but kids of any age can learn how to properly treat their bodies with a little guidance. Whether it’s through the food they eat, the exercise they get, or the healthy choices they make by refraining from using drugs and alcohol, kids can absolutely learn how to take care of themselves and form habits that will last them a lifetime.
Here are a few tips on how to get started.
Get them involved
Many kids will jump at the chance to help out in the kitchen. Cooking and baking are grown-up responsibilities, so allowing them to be part of creating a meal will make them feel important. Choose simple meals to start with, and go over the rules of safety for everyone before you begin. Rules such as tying hair back, wearing an apron to cover loose clothing, washing hands, and knowing where the fire extinguisher is are a great start. You can demonstrate portion control by using a kitchen scale to weigh your food. Review some buying guides to find the right model. Talk about the importance of various foods and go over where these foods come from. You can visit a farmers market so your kids can get a sense of how food is grown and what goes into everything we eat.
Set a budget
Healthy eating can get expensive. Unfortunately, it’s far more cost-effective for most families to rely on canned food, processed chicken nuggets, and mac and cheese from a box than it is to eat fresh or organic foods. The key is to get a healthy mix of fruits and veggies and then stock up on low-cost items for the base of the meals, such as canned beans, whole-grain pasta and rice, and quinoa. Look for in-season fruits and vegetables, as they can get very pricey otherwise. You can find other great tips for shopping healthy on a budget, here.
Lead by example
Showing your kids the value of exercising every day can help them make better choices on their own, so take the initiative to go for family walks after dinner, or head to the backyard for a game of kickball. Give the kids a variety of workouts so they won’t get bored. You might encourage them to try out for a sports team at school so they can get social while exercising, too.
Give them choices
Many people think that once they make healthier choices, they won’t ever be able to eat their favorite chocolate dessert anymore, or that relaxing on a Saturday and binge-watching television shows is out forever. Make sure your children know that they have choices, and that by incorporating healthy habits into their lifestyle, they can still have those treats now and then. Moderation is key.
Don’t forget about school
Most schools serve a variety of healthy options for lunch, but many also offer pizza, french fries, nachos, and sodas on the side. Talk to your kids about making healthy choices when they are away from home, and stress the importance of using food for energy and not getting bogged down by tons of sugar or carbs.
Helping your child make healthy choices doesn’t have to be a stressful endeavor. Talk about it as a family and make sure everyone is on the same page. It may be a difficult transition in the beginning, but taking those first steps to make your kids aware of good habits will eventually last a lifetime.