Children need guidance to make the right choices when it comes to what to eat and how to spend their time. The patterns you develop now will affect your child into adulthood. So it is so important to help your child develop a healthy lifestyle at a young age.
What can parents do? As a parent, you have a huge influence over your child’s life. If you eat healthy foods and take time to exercise, you increase the chance that your child will adopt these habits.
What if you are not sure how to help your child eat better or be more physically fit? No problem. Here are guidelines to promote a healthy and fit lifestyle.
All children should take an active role in their own nutrition. Get them involved in all of the stages of healthy eating:
MyPlate Kids' Place is a government initiative to encourage healthy eating. While planning meals with your child, use MyPlate Kids' Place as a guide to help you include the basic food groups:
Have your child help you on your next trip to the grocery store. Use this as a chance to reinforce the MyPlate basics. For example, encourage your child to pick out new healthy foods to try. Make sure to include healthy snack choices for school. Let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable to try.
Teach your child how to read food labels and understand portion sizes. It's a good time to learn how to read and understand ingredients too. It will help your child sort out the good stuff from the bad.
What about when your child is reaching for cookies to add to the cart? Try to highlight that it is okay to have special treats every so often. But there are better choices, like fruits, vegetables, or low-fat yogurt to have on a daily basis.
While preparing meals, involve your child. Even young children can take part, whether it be putting lettuce in a bowl or putting bread on the table. Older children can take the lead in cooking the main dish and help with meal planning.
Now that the meal is ready, sit down and enjoy it. Have a dining area away from the TV so that you can have some quality time with your family. Encourage your child to eat slowly and to taste each healthy bite. Don't allow any electronic devices, like cell phones, games, or tablets, at the table.
Make fitness part of your family’s routine. Your child should have at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. This should be a combination of aerobic exercise, muscle strengthening , and bone strengthening. To make physical activity fun, incorporate the activity into games. If you make exercise fun, your child will stick with it.
You can emphasize the importance of fitness in your child’s life in many ways, for example:
By teaching your child about proper nutrition and exercise, you help to build the foundation for a healthy adulthood. Remember that you are a role model. If you eat right and are physically active, then this encourages your child to do the same.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
US Department of Agriculture Choose MyPlate
Public Health Agency of Canada
2008 physical activity guidelines for Americans. US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/pdf/paguide.pdf. Accessed July 20, 2015.
Needs for children Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/children/what_counts.htm. Updated June 5, 2015. Accessed July 20, 2015.
Be a healthy role model for children. US Department of Agriculture Choose MyPlate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/TenTips/DGTipsheet12BeaHealthyRoleModel-BlkAndWht.pdf. Updated July 20, 2015.
Dietary guidelines for Americans 2010. US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/DietaryGuidelines2010.pdf. Accessed July 20, 2015.
Food groups US Department of Agriculture Choose MyPlate website. Available at: http://choosemyplate.gov/food-groups. Accessed July 20, 2015.
Help your child grow up healthy and strong. US Department of Education website. Available at: http://www2.ed.gov/parents/academic/health/growhealthy/growhealthy.pdf. Accessed July 20, 2015.
Last reviewed July 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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