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Thursday, March 19, 2020

It's National Nutrition Month! Here are 10 Ways To Spark Healthy Habits in Children

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It's National Nutrition Month! Here Are 10 Ways to Spark Healthy Habits in Children

It's National Nutrition Month! During this time of the year, when parts of the country are still in the firm embrace of winter but spring is starting to feel like something that might happen, it's an excellent time to reassess what healthy habits your family embraces and which practices need reconsidering. If you are anything like me, you made some resolutions in January to adopt healthier habits, but by now, some of them may have fallen by the wayside. If so, use this month to get back on a healthier path.

  1. Be a role model. Don't we all want our children to have a healthy relationship with food? The number one way to ensure that they do is to model healthy habits and attitudes toward food yourself. Parents lay the groundwork for so much of their children's future relationship with food, creating memories of the foods they enjoyed, the foods they hated, and how their parents treated food. So even if you have to fake it, act like you have the relationship with what you eat that you want your kids to have in 15 years. Make good choices, don't engage in negative self-talk, and be adventurous.
  2. Play actively, such as going to the park, taking walks, or chasing bubbles. Staying active and getting outside as part of your daily routine is crucial for you, and it's also essential for your children, no matter how young they are! Lace up your sneakers, get the baby into the stroller or carrier, and head outside to get moving. Every night doesn't have to include a five-mile walk or family game of touch football, though. You could walk around the block, head to the park to have fun on the playground equipment, or just enjoy a game of tag.
  3. Don't pressure your children to play a sport that they don't enjoy. I grew up taking dance classes and performing, but my girls weren't nearly as enthusiastic about dancing as I was. Just because you loved all 15 years you spent playing baseball doesn't mean your kids will want to, too. And when you sign your child up for T-ball, don't start imagining their career as a future MLB superstar! Let your kids experiment with different sports until they find one that they enjoy. Then, let them have fun: They don't have to win championships or compete in the Olympics to get a lot of benefits out of participating in the sport they love.
  4. Encourage each child to find their own favorite outdoor activities. Just like not every kid loves playing lacrosse, not every one of your children will enjoy outdoor activities in the same way. Some children thrive on activities that are organized and competitive, while others want to be able to do their own thing in cooperative or solitary pursuits. There is no right way to be outdoors and be active, so let your children find their own path.
  5. Limit screen time! We all resort to electronics every once in a while, and that's OK. But limiting screen time leads to children who are more active, less anxious, less depressed, and less likely to be obese. So don't be afraid to pull out the tablet when getting on a plane, but when you're at home, encourage everyone to get outside or pursue another hobby instead.
  6. Plan tasty, healthy meals. A little planning can help you limit trips to the drive-through for meals you'll later regret. Healthy meals don't necessarily have to be time-consuming: You can buy foods that are both good for you and quick to cook, like steam-in-bag frozen vegetables. Canned foods like beans can add healthy protein to a quick meal.
  7. Get your kids involved in cooking. Getting your kids to help in the kitchen will slow you down but will give your children so many advantages. For one, knowing how to prepare a meal is an important skill they'll need as an independent adult! Also, kids are far more likely to eat food they were involved in preparing. Unsure how to engage your kids in the cooking process? The Montessori method has lots of ideas for how to include children as young as toddlers in the kitchen.
  8. Swap out less-healthy foods with healthier alternatives, but do it slowly. If you're trying to turn over a new leaf, don't throw away all the food in your cupboards and buy a bunch of new cookbooks all at once. Instead, make small substitutions. Try swapping a cauliflower crust for your regular pizza crust. Make zucchini noodles with meatballs and sauce instead of spaghetti. And saute food in olive oil instead of butter. Each small change you make will have substantial health benefits, and by making one small change at a time, your family is less likely to revolt.
  9. Keep your diet affordable. Making healthier food choices doesn't have to mean busting your grocery budget. Buying fresh produce that's currently in season is an easy way to save money. Switching out a couple of meat-based recipes for ones that focus on lentils or beans can be a significant money-saver. Canned and frozen goods can also be a significant source of savings and ensure that you always have healthy food on hand.
  10. Have an open dialogue with your children about healthy choices. Talk to your kids! Let them know your reasoning, listen to their opinions, and keep the conversation about healthy decisions open.
Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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