Childhood obesity is on the rise all over the world, along with obesity-related illnesses like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and weaker joints. Sedentary lifestyle (accompanied by the popularity of technology) and poor eating habits have contributed to this ongoing health concern. Luckily, it’s not a losing battle; small changes to your child’s routine can help him or her improve overall well being. Here are 10 simple tips for getting your child on a path to a healthier lifestyle.
1. Make activity accessible. For many kids, physical activity — or “play” time — just isn’t accessible. Many children aren’t allowed to play outside by themselves, aren’t on any sports teams, and find sedentary indoor activities fun. Make sure your child has the option to choose physical outdoor activities in a safe and supervised environment.
2. Talk to your pediatrician. Sit with your pediatrician to discuss your child’s nutrition habits, exercise regimens, sleep patterns, and stress level. Then, your pediatrician can recommend specific changes to your child’s lifestyle.
3. Exercise as daily nutrition. Try to make exercise part of your child’s daily routine. Just as they need to eat every day to survive, exercise is also needed regularly for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and weight. Make exercise fun by incorporating games, tracking their progress on a chart, and offering rewards.
4. Get plenty of sleep. Try to make sure your children get a good night’s rest each evening to stay healthier. Adequate sleep keeps stabilize the hormones related to appetite; this can help your child know when they are completely full at a meal, preventing them from overeating. A well-rested child can also feel more energized for physical activity.
5. Reduce technology use. This generation of children is very technology-oriented, but spending too much time on a computer, tablet, or electronic device is contributing to a generation that is less active and who could potentially have a shorter life span. Try to limit the electronics, including television time. While they watch TV, have them “commerical-cize,” or stand up and move around during the commercial breaks.
6. Maintain adequate liquid intake. Many children don’t drink enough water throughout the day, and instead, some consume large quantities of sugary drinks. Simply substituting water for flavored drinks can significantly reduce kids’ daily calorie consumption and help them stay hydrated, too. They do not need to eliminate their favorite drinks completely; moderation is the key. Alternatively, offer kids hydrating foods like fresh watery fruits and vegetables.
7. Be the role model. Most children mimic the adult role models involved in their lives, whether they’re displaying good or bad habits. Expose children to a healthy lifestyle through healthy eating, healthy cooking, and fun physical activities. Children see adults’ behavior as acceptable, so make sure the lifestyle they observe is on that is both positive and healthy.
8. Give them choices. When it comes to mealtime or activity time, give them choices — empower them to make their own healthy lifestyle decisions. For example, instead of placing a healthy meal on the table for dinner and forcing them to eat it, give them the opportunity to be involved in the menu “decisions” each night, making sure they have a host of healthy choices to pick from. Or, give them kid-friendly cooking tasks and let them help make dinner.
9. Implement the plan today. Basically, the old adage works here; “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” The longer you wait to implement a healthy lifestyle, the harder it is to make the change.
10. Stop bad habits in their tracks. As children grow, they sometimes pick up bad health habits. As they age, these habits can become harder and harder to change. Talk to your children and work with them on an action plan to eliminate these bad habits before they become ingrained.
Teaching children about healthy lifestyles at a young age is a very important step in their normal growth and development. Eating fruits and vegetables, exercising, hydrating properly, getting plenty of sleep, and reducing technology use can all have a positive impact on their lives now and as they grow. Teaching young children how to maintain a healthy lifestyle now is an investment in their life and their future.
Len Saunders is an award winning author of 4 books, with his most recent book, Keeping Kids Fit available through Amazon. Len is a recognized figure in the United States for his work in the fight against childhood obesity, and for helping keep families healthy and fit.