Posted Brittney Storm Rankin on 9/24/2015 |Featured Columns & Series
Establishing healthy habits at an early age can help your child stay healthy for a lifetime. Try these 10 tips to raise a healthier kid:
Set a positive example. Whether you realize it or not, you are a role model for your child. Set a healthy example by eating nutritious foods, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly.
Encourage her to be active. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends children get 60 minutes of physical activity a day. It may sound like a lot, but it's easy to break up into smaller chunks throughout the day. Girls on the Run practice, school sports, recess and a post-dinner walk or dance party count!
Make exercise a family affair. Go hiking or apple-picking on the weekends, take a walk after dinner each night, play hide-and-seek or have a dance party on a rainy afternoon, or sign up for a charity 5K together.
Limit screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics says children spend a whopping seven hours on their phone, television and computer each day, but recommends limiting them to only an hour or two. Studies have shown excessive media usage can lead to obesity, sleep and eating disorders, trouble in school and attention problems.
Keep nutritious meals simple. Fast food can seem like the best option on hectic school night, but with a little planning, you can whip up a healthy meal in less time than it takes to drive to the pick-up window. Keep healthy staples such as low-sodium beans, brown rice and canned salmon in the pantry, and frozen veggies and fruit in the freezer. On Sundays, prep a few meals and freeze them.
Cook together. Preparing a meal together is a great way to teach your daughter new skills while she learns about nutrition. She may just find a new hobby: many kids enjoy a meal more if they had a hand in preparing it. Stick with age-appropriate tasks, such as washing veggies or measuring ingredients.
Keep her hydrated. Encourage her to drink water (not soda or fruit juice) throughout the day. By the time a child feels thirsty, she is likely already dehydrated. Pack a reusable water bottle for her to take to school and practice.
Upgrade snack time. Keep unhealthy snacks out of view in the pantry (or better yet, don't buy them in the first place). Keep bowl of fresh fruit on the counter and stock the fridge with pre-washed chopped veggies and hummus.
Make sure she's getting her zzz's. Studies have shown kids who don't get enough sleep score lower on tests and act more impulsively. Children ages 5 to 12 need between 10 and 11 hours of sleep each night. How do you know if your daughter is getting enough rest? If she's alert throughout the day, usually in a good mood and wakes up around the same time each morning, she's likely getting enough sleep.
Encourage her to express her feelings. Encourage your daughter to share her feelings and problems. When she does, listen openly and non-judgmentally, asking questions as needed. Then you can work together to find a solution to the problem.
What are your favorite ways to encourage healthy behaviors for a lifetime? Share your tips in the comments below!