What does a healthy lifestyle mean for your children? A healthy lifestyle can encompass a variety of things such as nutrition, exercise, mindfulness, spirituality, cultural diversity and more. Researchers often look at studies showing risk of premature death or disease and what increases that risk. It is important we instill healthy lifestyle habits in our children at a young age. The following are five ways to help your children maintain a healthy lifestyle.
#1 Implement a Healthy Diet
It is no surprise that what our kids put into their bodies has a profound effect on the way they feel, their overall mood, their energy levels and their growth and development. As parents, we are responsible for what we feed our children, and our children are responsible for eating what we provide. If your child's diet is high in sugar and fat, be prepared for sluggish moods, sub optimal performance in school and the possibility of excessive weight gain, all of which could have negative long-term effects. It is important to encourage children to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories but packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber. This type of food is great brain food and is good for gut health.
#2 Be Mindful of Portion Sizes
Portion sizes have grown over the past several decades and many experts state this has played a role in our obesity epidemic. Children do not need to eat as much as adults, so be mindful when portioning out food for your child’s plate. Portion sizes vary by age and activity level. A 3 year old will need different portion sizes than an 8 year old, and an 8 year old a different portion than a 16 year old. My plate plan at choosemyplate.gov is a great place to start, as it provides a basic understanding of appropriate portion sizes for your child's age.
#3 Hydration is Key
Water, water, water! Encouraging water intake is of utmost importance. Sometimes kids will think they are hungry when in reality they are thirsty. This is because your hunger center and thirst center are right next door to each other in your brain, so they send very similar signals. If you know your child has had a big meal or a snack, but they are asking for more food, encourage them to drink some water first. Also, encourage water in between meals. Maintaining hydration can prevent fatigue, headaches and it helps in the digestion and absorption of food. It is important to limit juice, soda and any other sugar sweetened beverage and replace this craving with a piece of fruit instead. Remember that there are no health benefits to sugary beverages.
The goal should be sixty minutes of play a day for your kids. Any amount of exercise play is encouraged. Research shows even 10-20 minutes a day can be beneficial to just about anyone. Getting your child’s heart pumping and blood flowing helps to improve endurance and digestive health. I like to play tag with my son and during the pandemic have set up some fun home obstacle courses. We also take walks as a family. Get creative and get moving!
As previously mentioned, a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and moderate amount of fat is key to a healthy lifestyle. Kids that eat a well-rounded diet may not need a daily multivitamin supplement. Some kids dislike meat or dairy or do not get enough fruits and vegetables. In this case, a multivitamin may be a good idea to incorporate. As always, discuss any supplements with your child's pediatrician