Almost a third of children today are overweight or obese. This can lead to a number of health problems, both during their younger years as well as when they grow up. If something isn’t done now, the disease may also cause damage to their careers, social lives and even the environment. Tackling this problem in your household today will not only ensure that you can keep your children healthy and happy, it will be fun for the whole family.
1.Start early. Let your toddlers and preschoolers pick out new fruits and vegetables to try at the farmers market or in the produce aisle. If they picked it out, they’re more likely to try it.
2.Set an example. From eating a variety of foods yourself to not turning up your nose at Brussels sprouts, kids need to see their parents actually practicing what they preach. If you urge your kids to try a new food, you need to eat it as well. Setting a good example also means not eating a handful of cookies right after telling them to only eat two.
3.Don’t make food a reward. While it seems a good idea to promise your child an ice cream sundae if he aces his spelling test, a trip to the skating rink – with you – is a healthier alternative. Creating positive associations with high-fat and high-sugar foods can lead to emotional eating later on in life.
4.Have healthy snacks ready for the taking. Keep a variety of fruits washed, peeled and sliced. Place whole-grain crackers on a low shelf. This way it’s easier for your kids to make healthy eating choices.
5.Grow your own food. Plant a vegetable garden together, or at least grow some herbs in the kitchen window if a garden isn’t possible. Most kids love to dig in the dirt and enjoy having responsibilities such as watering the plants. If they’re involved in growing healthy food, they’ll want to eat it as well.
6.Let kids plan meals. Allow your kids to create the dinner menu – and actually cook it, if possible – once a week. If they choose hot dogs, remind them that they need to balance the menu with a salad as well. Menu planning also teaches children about proper portion size, all the different food groups and appetizing food combinations.
7.Cook with your kids. Following a recipe involves so many skills you can help your kids with – math, reading comprehension, coordination, timing. This is also a good time to talk about nutrition, such as why you add only a small amount of salt or why you chose a recipe that bakes rather than fries the food.
8.Take up an active hobby as a family. Whether it’s riding bikes together on the weekends or adopting a dog so everyone can take it for walks in the evening, doing something active together creates a long-lasting habit for everyone in the family.
9.Make movie night special. Instead of everyone plopping down in front of the tube every night after dinner, make TV viewing an occasion. Rotate which family member gets to choose the movie, make some popcorn (easy on the butter!) and focus on enjoying your family’s time together.
10.Don’t talk negatively about your body. When you complain about how big your thighs look in your jeans, you’re sending the wrong message to your kids – that beauty is more important than health. Work on your own self-esteem and that will send the right message to your kids.