How To Build Healthy Habits for Kids? Get Involved!

Sean Pravica

by Sean Pravica | September 13, 2011 @ 03:00PM

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Family Fun FitnessWe’ve all heard about it: video games and fast food being an apparently deadly combination for the health of America’s children. If someone’s not hitting the panic button it is definitely time to break the glass – the upcoming generation of kids are the first to be stamped with a shorter life expectancy than their parents due to skyrocketing increases in obesity rates, high cholesterol, diabetic diagnoses, and early heart disease. Clearly, the situation needs some attention.

Parents today might have grown up with Atari and Nintendo but the earlier video game systems were not known for drawing them into the kind of marathon playing time they do to kids today.  And while fast food chains were certainly becoming more and more commonplace decades ago, their role in the American’s daily diet, especially children, was not nearly as ubiquitous as we see it now.

So sure, video games and fast food are not exactly helping the cause.  But they are not the sole evil, either.  Or even evil at all.  These kinds of modern pleasures are in themselves far from destructive if enjoyed with moderation.  And some nutritionists will even go so far to say that an occasional cheeseburger and fries could be good for kids.  A quick treat can go a long way towards keeping junk food safely contained.  Nutritionists argue that forbidding junk foods outright can create an even stronger attraction to them.  And of course, some video game time when the homework’s done or it’s raining outside is not going to hurt anyone, either.

If we have to get down to the bottom of our children’s health crisis, the question for parents is a matter of overall lifestyle.  The solution has to do with restructuring children’s diets and the way they spend their time. 

A young but important holiday is coming up at the end of the month to promote these kinds of changes.  The 15th annual “Family Health and Fitness Day” takes place on Thursday, September 24th and is dedicated to the promotion of family involvement in physical activity.  A wide range of local organizations will be celebrating the event, including schools, hospitals, YMCA’s and YWCA’s, malls, and health clubs.  Activities hosted at these organizations could include exercises, health screenings, games, informative health and fitness workshops, and open houses. 

This day is meant to encourage children to be active and parents to be involved in helping them to do so.  Children have so much natural energy and there are so many ways to put it to use these days.  From organized sports to individualized sports like martial arts and rock climbing, parents and children alike have their pick of recreational options that don’t involve a TV or computer screen.  The opportunities to get kids involved with physical activities can get mom and dad out of the house too.  Parents can go for bike rides with their children, take a morning on the weekend for a family hike, or sign up for adult classes at their child’s karate dojo.  The more involved parents are the more physical activity becomes a daily part of a child’s lifestyle, and the more likely it is they will be to grow up into healthy, active adults.

When it comes to diet, nutritionists have all kinds of advice.  A few simple and easy tips include: cooking meals at home, having regular meals together as a family, and keeping portion sizes appropriate.  It is also important to keep healthy snacks like fruits and veggies, whole grain snacks, and healthy beverages around the house in visible and easy-to-access places.  That way children just might grab a banana out of the fruit bowl or carrot sticks from the fridge when they’re hungry and need a quick bite. 

If parents are dealing with picky eaters, there are a few tricks they can employ to win over stubborn taste buds and still provide healthy food.  Frozen fruit kabobs can be a big hit with children with a sweet tooth.  Good choices for the skewer include bananas, berries, and pineapples.  Add veggies to baked goods – zucchini and carrots make a great addition to muffins and breads.  And parents should never be afraid to get creative.  They can make the plate a canvas and line it with veggies in a way that makes a picture, or draw a smiling face over their children’s oatmeal with fruit and nuts. 

Most important of all is just to keep kids involved.  Parents should take their children to the grocery store to see the varieties of produce available.  This way they can spare the battle over brussels sprouts and let the kids choose what kind of vegetables they would like to try.  When it comes time to start cooking dinner, parents can get kids in the kitchen to help prepare the meal.  The key to changing the next generation’s bad habits is involvement, and that is what the spirit of “Family Health and Fitness Day” is all about.  And not only will children thank their parents later as healthy adults, they will thank them now for being so positively involved in their lives.

Photo by heraldpost

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