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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

9 Tips for Talking to Your Kids About Nutrition and Physical Activity

Photo by Bruce Tuten (Flickr)

As a play advocate, I'm always on the lookout for ways to help kids and families stay healthy. In March, we celebrated National Nutrition Month, and now's the perfect time to help our kids understand the importance of good nutrition and physical activity. Here are nine ways we parents, caregivers, and educators can talk to kids and motivate them to make smart food and activity choices now and for the rest of their lives.

Be a Good Role Model

Kids learn from observation, so let's fill our plates with healthy foods, prioritize physical movement, and invite our children to join our efforts to get and stay healthy. When my kids see me embracing healthy choices, they're more likely to make wise choices, too.

Take the Focus off of Weight Loss

Of course, when we make healthy nutrition and activity choices, we may lose weight. But that's not the sole reason to take care of our bodies. Instead of saying, "Let's stop drinking soda and drink only water so we lose weight," try "Drinking water hydrates your body so it functions properly." With this mindset, our kids will want to make healthy choices to protect their bodies, not just to weigh less.

Engage in Fun Activities

My girls like playing at our local playground because they have fun. Encourage your kids to move each day, too, as they engage in fun activities like biking, hiking, and dancing.

Cook Together

This year, my girls and I vowed to cook together more often, and we're having so much fun in the kitchen! As we plan the menu, shop, and cook, we try new foods, talk about nutrition, and improve our health.

Provide Visual Aids

Hands-on demos and visual aids help kids see and understand concepts like serving sizes and sugar content. For example, demonstrate that a serving size of fruit equals one tennis ball, and show your kids that their favorite soda or cereal may contain up to 10 teaspoons of sugar.

Read Nutrition Labels

The next time you visit the grocery store, introduce your kids to nutrition labels. They can learn to identify serving sizes, compare calories and sodium levels, and read the ingredients. With this knowledge, we teach our kids how to make thoughtful food choices.

Eat the Rainbow

While watching my older daughter prepare chicken, cauliflower, and rice for dinner the other night, I reminded her about the importance of eating a rainbow of colors. This guideline helps kids eat a balanced diet, consume a variety of nutrients, and try new foods. Plus, it's fun!

Understand How the Body Uses Food

Explain to kids that like their family car needs fuel and regular maintenance, their body needs a balanced diet to fuel it and exercise to help it function properly. This analogy can prompt our kids to make wise food choices and exercise regularly.

Stop Dieting

There's nothing wrong with reducing sugar, sodium, and caffeine in our daily diet, but dieting can damage our kids' health and view of food. We can instead promote balanced nutrition, eating in moderation, and daily physical activity as we equip our kids to embrace a healthy view of food and exercise that will last them a lifetime.

During National Nutrition Month and every month, we can teach our kids the importance of good nutrition and exercise. Try these nine tips year-round as you help your kids get and stay healthier.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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