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Proper nutrition and exercise play a key role in the health of your children. Helping your kids develop positive habits in childhood helps them to maintain lifelong health. That is why it is so important to steer your kids in the right direction. Follow these tips to take positive steps in the right direction, keeping your children healthy now and for years to come.
Lead by example. Children mimic their parents’ behavior. So, simply telling your child how to eat and exercise is not enough to influence them to adopt the behaviors. Practice healthy habits yourself, and your kids will catch on.
Involve your kids in shopping and preparing healthy foods. Children of all ages can help their parents in the grocery store and the kitchen. Try to keep your children engaged in making healthy choices by allowing them to pick a new fruit or vegetable to try at the grocery store. Encourage them to participate in preparing healthy meals and snacks by giving them a task appropriate for their age. This can also help entice picky eaters to try new foods.
Know your role. Remember parents, it is your responsibility to determine where, when, and what food your children will be offered. It is up to them to decide what and how much they will eat of the foods you offer.
Limit liquids between meals. Too much liquid can fill kids up and prevent them from eating well at meals. Water is a good anytime liquid when your child is thirsty. Milk is a healthy choice, but too much can cause anemia, so limit to 24 oz daily. One hundred percent fruit juice is also a good beverage choice, as long as it is moderated to 4-6 oz daily. Avoid serving liquids with added sugars as they can contribute to tooth decay, picky eating, poor appetite, and overweight.
Trust your child’s natural hunger and satiety cues. Children eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Avoid making your child eat when they refuse. Forcing a child to eat food that they do not want will teach them to ignore these natural cues, making them more likely to overeat and struggle with being overweight as an adult. They may also develop a negative association with the food and not want to eat it in the future. Rather, encourage them to try new things and be consistent at mealtime.
Set the proper atmosphere. Sit down at the table to eat family meals. Keep the kitchen and dining area free from distractions. Turn off the television, radio, and ringer on the phone. Keep cell phones, video games, computers, and other electronics out of sight and out of mind. Instead, just bring the family and the food together to enjoy the meal.
Be active together. Exercise is not limited to running on a treadmill. There are a variety of things you can do to help keep you and your children in good physical condition. Play frisbee, catch, tag, or go for a family walk. Do chores together - shovel snow during winter and do yard work in spring/summer/fall. If the weather is bad, have a dance party, visit an indoor public play area, or set up an obstacle course in the garage or basement. Hop, skip, jump, run, and play with the kids. Physical activity can be fun!