The world our children live in now is different than the one we grew up in. When we were young, our parents would kick us out of the house as soon as the sun came up and tell us not to come home until the street lights were on. Being active and healthy wasn’t something we had to think about because we’d spend all day playing and using our imaginations, only coming home for the occasional snack or drink. Today, though, we live in a digital world where everything is at our fingertips, from entertainment to food and retail services, and we don’t have to leave the house for anything but work or school. You have to make a conscious choice to build healthy habits, and many people don’t because it’s easier to eat hot pockets and play video games than it is to make healthy food choices and be active. How can we encourage the habits in our children that they’ll need to grow up happy and healthy?
1. Buy Healthy Food
One of the easiest ways to help your kids make healthy choices is to remove the unhealthy options from the table. Make smart choices when it comes to your grocery shopping. Focus on lean proteins, whole grains and fresh produce rather than pre-processed or packaged foods that aren’t as healthy. Instead of cookies and potato chips, make sure that there are fresh fruits and vegetables available for your kids to snack on. Instead of steak or hamburger, focus on lean proteins like chicken and fish. It might take some getting used to, especially if your family used to pizza rolls and mac and cheese, but you’ll all end up feeling better for it.
2. Pay Attention to Portion Sizes
How often do you look at nutrition labels to see what the portion size of your food is supposed to be? For most people, it’s information that gets overlooked — the portion size for potato chips is “however many chips it takes to fill me up” for most consumers, even though it is clearly outlined on the label. Pay closer attention to portion sizes and fill up the majority of your plate with vegetables.
3. Get Outside and Play With Them
Diet is only part of the problem. Today’s kids would rather stay inside and play video games than go outside and actually play — and it is becoming a health crisis. One out of every five children between the ages of 6 and 19 are considered obese, more than three times our generation. Instead of trying to send them out to play, get outside and play with them. Toss a ball, go for a walk, take them swimming and actually get in the water. Just get involved!
4. Do As I Say, Not As I Do
Do you know what the easiest way to get a kid to do something is? Tell them not to. Kids are more likely to mimic the behaviors they see you demonstrating than following how you tell them to behave. If you want your kids to have a healthier lifestyle, show them by setting an example and doing it yourself. Don’t expect them to eat salads if you’re chowing down on Big Macs. Not only will they start sneaking fast food, but they’ll also resent you for it. Show them the kind of habits that you’re trying to help them form by doing the same yourself.
5. Make It A Family Affair
The best way to get your kids interested in healthy habits is to make it a family affair. Sign up for a workout class or a healthy cooking class together. Get out of the house together, even if that just means going for walk around your neighborhood. Not only does this help you all build healthy habits, but it can also help you build strong and healthy relationships with the other members of your family. It might seem like a simple tip but it’s more effective than you might think.
6. Keep Your Door Open
When it comes to healthy choices and building good habits, you might feel like you’ve got all the responsibility resting on your shoulders, but it should be a collaborative effort. With that in mind, keep your door open — be open to communication and suggestions from the rest of your family members. If they feel like they’re part of the planning, your family will be more likely to participate.
Making better choices and habits is something that will help both you and your kids live a healthy life, but you have to make the decision to start down that path. If you want your kids to learn healthy habits, the best thing you can do is to start adopting those habits yourself. Eat better, get more active and spend time with your kids too. It’s a win-win-win in our book.