The Home of Healthy Habits

How to en­cour­age chil­dren to adopt good prac­tices for life

Gulf & Main - - Contents - Klau­dia Balogh is the health and fit­ness writer for TOTI Me­dia.

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.

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