your child to turn into a couch potato? The bad news is that childhood
obesity can lead to significant health problems for children and
the adults they become. The good news is that as a parent, you
can do a lot to influence your child's tastes, habits and health
awareness early on. Here are a few tips for helping your child
develop healthy eating and exercise habits they're likely to carry
with them into adulthood.
meals a habit. It's crucial to start kids eating healthy from
an early age so they develop a taste for healthy foods. Many families,
however, are too busy to cook healthy foods and often resort to
less healthy options in the interests of time. To prevent this
from happening to you, find easy, quick recipes that rely on healthy,
non-processed ingredients and use these as your speedy staples.
Buy organic and local foods when you can, and avoid canned, dehydrated,
frozen and sugary foods.
together. Developing an interest in physical activity starts
early, and if you make exercise fun, you can encourage your kids
to develop active interests they are likely to carry with them
into adulthood. Find activities the whole family can enjoy-whether
they include bike riding, skiing, nature hikes, horseback riding,
or games of catch and tag in the back yard.
healthy habits. You can't expect your kids to become healthy,
active adults if you spend all day in front of the television.
Raising a healthy family starts with improving your own habits.
Cultivate an active lifestyle. Always take the stairs instead
of elevators and escalators. Park in the farthest parking spot.
Go for walks, bike rides, and jogs. Join a gym and develop a taste
for healthy snacks. Young children learn by example-and if they
see you doing it, they're more likely to do it as well.
a reward in itself. Let kids play outside for an hour before
they have to start their homework-that way they'll be asking for
more play time to put their homework off! Offer incentives like
a family bike ride, a fun hike, or a ski trip to kids for goals
like good grades, finished projects, and completed chores. If
kids start to see sports as a reward, they'll want to do more.
kids' interests. Not all kids are star athletes. Some are
shy or don't enjoy the competitive environments of team sports,
and bad experiences in gym class can turn kids off group sports
for life. But all kids enjoy activity of one kind or another.
If your child doesn't like organized sports, don't push him to
join. Instead, help him find an activity he'll like. Encourage
it, offer to buy the equipment, and give him plenty of time to
pursue it-whether it's skateboarding, rock climbing, or downhill
"exercise." Some kids love to go to the gym and
develop an interest in body building from an early age, but this
isn't common. Most young kids don't enjoy jogging three miles
every day before school or working out in the afternoons. Instead
of forcing kids to exercise, help them develop their interests
by exploring different activities as a family and encouraging
kids to further pursue the ones they like best as they get older.
kids' tastes. When promoting healthy eating, make sure you
substitute unhealthy foods with healthy ones your children like.
If you try to get your kids to eat foods they dislike because
they're healthy, you're fighting a losing battle-not only will
kids resist, but they're likely to associate healthy eating with
foods they dislike and cultivate unhealthy habits as an adult.
Talk to your children about the healthy foods they enjoy. Keep
a supply of their favorite fruits on hand for sweet snacks as
a replacement for candy and cookies. Make meals that substitute
low-fat versions and healthy ingredients for fats and sugars.
Work with your child's tastes, not against them.
access. It's important to make sure your kids don't develop
a reliance on television to have fun. Avoid using it as a babysitting
tool. Don't put a television in each child's bedroom. Instead,
keep a single television in the family room and let each child
choose a handful of favorite shows they can watch throughout the
week. Limit television viewing time to one hour a night on weekdays
and a few hours on weekends.
positive. Avoid developing negative associations with healthy
eating and exercise. Don't criticize your child's weight or nag
them to do a physical activity they don't like. Instead, keep
physical activity fun and family oriented, demonstrate healthy
habits yourself, and let your child choose their favorite activities
and encourage their choices. Work with their tastes to design
a healthy menu they'll stick to.
lifelong habits early on. Bad ones are tough to break, but the
right habits can lead to a lifetime of healthy living. From a
young age, be sure to keep associations with physical activity
positive and allow kids to explore their own interests, whether
or not they're related to organized school sports. Let kids take
an active role in designing healthy menus and picking healthy
snacks you can keep on hand. Most importantly, demonstrate healthy
habits in your own life-if you don't practice what you preach,
kids will notice. Follow these tips, and your kids are likely
to grow into healthy adults.
Jean Lam is the webmaster of Body
Building Resource which provides articles on weight training,
nutrition and fitness, body building book and DVDs.