The Home of Healthy Habits
How to encourage children to adopt good practices for life
Good health begins at home with your family. With numbers surrounding both adult and childhood obesity rising year after year, we must look in the mirror and find ways of changing our behaviors and habits, instead of blaming outside forces for why we can’t live healthy. True, the external distractions and sweet and savory temptations are plenty, but creating a healthy environment at home is a prerequisite for raising healthy children.
One in four kids in Florida is overweight or obese, according to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. To slow down this epidemic, parents and grandparents must stand as role models setting a good example to younger generations—not to mention that it will improve not only their kids’ lives, but also their own.
To encourage healthy habits, parents must take an active part. Here are four ways to make healthy living fun and simple for the whole family.
MAKE EXERCISE A FAMILY ACTIVITY
Living in Southwest Florida, we’re fortunate to be surrounded by nature and beautiful weather all year round. There are a variety of outdoor activities adults and children can enjoy together. Go for a stroll in the park or on the beach; sign up for kayaking, paddleboarding or cycling; or even just throw the ball in the backyard. These are all fun endeavors that not only strengthen the family bond by making memories together, but also provide efficient physical activity.
Statistics show that less than half of American children get the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity. The sedentary lifestyle of many adults—going from sitting in the office to sitting at home—is starting to become the norm for kids as well. After sitting in school, they go home and play video games or watch TV. The lack of physical activity takes a toll on their joints, weight, overall health and even mental focus. Make exercise something your children will look forward to and enjoy, and so will you.
EAT HEALTHY AT HOME. DON’T ENCOURAGE JUNK FOOD
Many have the misconception that eating healthy is boring and nutritious food takes a long time to prepare. On the contrary, choosing the right ingredients and preparing healthy meals can take less than an hour. Children often see that when their parents don’t have time to cook, they just order in or pick up a meal on the way home. Unfortunately, this tells the kids that having little time equals eating junk food—and that’s a problem.
In the time it takes to order a pizza and wait for it to be delivered, you can prepare a nutritious meal instead. Cooking healthy at home shows kids that it can be easy, fun and delicious. Don’t chase them down with Brussels sprouts if they don’t like them, because this can ruin their experience of vegetables altogether. Try something different instead, such as broccoli or carrots and green beans. Season them with Himalayan salt and pepper, grill them and pair them with chicken or fish.
TREAT WITH FRUIT, NOT CANDY
What do grandparents bring the kids when they visit? Candy. And what do children get for special occasions? More sweets. See the pattern? Sugar-jammed foods and drinks are why kids
may not appreciate the natural sweetness of fruits and vegetables. Instead of reaching for an orange, they would rather have a bar of chocolate. How can you make your kids eat more fruit? Try making it look pretty. We often eat with our eyes first—if it looks good, it must taste good. Cut up oranges, strawberries, apples and a banana and arrange them attractively on a plate, perhaps with some peanut butter on the side. This snack can be just as satisfying as ice cream, without all the disadvantages of sugar.
INCORPORATE A SMART BALANCE
Keep in mind that although living healthy does mean limiting certain activities and food groups, you don’t have to eliminate them completely. We’ve all been kids, and we all know that the more parents restrict something, the more children want just that. Set a smart schedule for movie nights or video-game afternoons, the same way you plan family day outings.
Decrease the temptation of eating poorly by not having junk food around the house. What you don’t buy you won’t eat. Go out for sweets such as ice cream together once a week instead, and make it a family experience.