Helping Your Kids Make Healthy Choices
Article courtesy of of Alexis Hall from singleparent.info…
It’s hard to teach children the value of making good choices in the foods they eat and in their personal habits given the influence of the media and the hectic lives their parents lead. There’s often precious little time for the kind of mentoring and positive behavioral modeling kids need from adults. It’s important though: the choices kids make early in life can have a powerfully formative effect on them and are apt to remain with them well into adulthood.
Obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and many other health problems lay in wait for people who’ve never learned a better way, a healthier lifestyle. Ultimately, kids follow the example set by their parents, so it’s your influence as a mom or dad that will make the deepest impression. Imparting a few common sense lessons can help you set your children on the path to a healthy, happy life.
You may not succeed in converting the kids into vegetable connoisseurs, but you can get them thinking about healthy eating, exercise and the importance of taking good care of themselves.
Get them involved
You can make your children understand that healthy eating is a process, and that following that process determines how well you eat and how healthy you are. Involve them in establishing a weekly meal menu for the family featuring healthful foods including vegetables, fruit, whole grains, protein and plant oils (i.e. olive oil). Choose recipes that everyone will enjoy and which are designed to promote nutrition and prevent the negative effects of saturated fats and food with high sugar and sodium content.
Try making a rule that each meal must feature three or four foods from the primary food groups and work on it together until you’ve created a list of dishes that are popular with everyone in the family. Include some simple recipes that the kids can take the lead in making. Use that opportunity to teach them about kitchen safety when it comes to food preparation. You never know, you may end up with a budding young chef.
Where’s it come from?
Kids grow up believing that the food they eat originates in their neighborhood grocery, or comes from the TV, which makes it all look so tasty. You can go a long way toward giving kids a profound appreciation for how food is produced and how it gets from farm to market to table. Try taking your children to a nearby pick-it-yourself farm, where they can see how the food they eat has to be nurtured and cared for, and how important that process is. Or, you could try planting vegetables in a garden just outside your own kitchen door, where everyone can have a hand in growing fresh food for the family to enjoy and benefit from.
Emphasize healthy snacking
It’s a given that children love snacking. It’s one of the most unhealthy personal choices kids make because snacking is so often a negative thing, especially when snacking involves chocolate, crisps, and doughnuts. Try substituting sliced fruit, grapes, carrots and air-popped popcorn instead. Keep sugar-laden fruit drinks out of the house and encourage your kids to drink bottled water.
Show them the way
It’s extremely unlikely your kids will start insisting on vegetables and fruit instead of junk food if they see you tearing into a bag of cheese and onion crisps. You have to show them the way, not just lecture them on the evils of unhealthy eating. Make it a family project to come up with new and interesting salad recipes that everyone can share in and not just at dinnertime, but also between meals. Encourage exercise and join them in physical activity that will benefit everyone. Make sure that substances like caffeine and processed sugars are not present in your family’s diet.
Ensuring your children’s health also means keeping them safe and preventing access to harmful influences on the Internet, just as you would keep alcoholic beverages safely out of reach to limit temptations to experiment with alcohol and drugs. Use filters and parental controls to prevent your kids from visiting dangerous websites and being influenced by people seeking to influence their behavior. Consider installing a home security system to help monitor your children’s comings and goings, and keep cabinets locked to prevent access to prescribed medications.
Keeping a child healthy and safe requires paying close attention to their behavior and protecting them from destructive influences, just as it does encouraging and modeling positive lifestyle behaviors for them. The more you can make good diet and exercise decisions appealing to your kids, the better the chances they’ll follow in your footsteps. And it’ll be good for both of you.