Maintaining healthy habits from the start can help your children to grow and develop their full potential and help your whole family avoid lifestyle problems that can occur later in life, such as overweight and obesity, type-2 diabetes, types of cancer and high blood pressure.
Here are few tips to help you and your family live a healthy lifestyle
Promote healthy eating in your home
Your children are more likely to develop healthy eating behaviors when they are given a choice of healthy foods at home, so put healthy foods on your shopping list and prepare healthy meals and snacks for the whole family. Having fewer foods like soft drinks, chips and candy in your cupboard means you won’t have to say “no” as often to what your children eat.
As a family, remind yourselves of the basic foods
These are few vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean meat, fish, poultry and meat alternatives like beans, peas and lentils, and low-fat dairy foods. Make your shopping list from these groups so it will be easier to prepare family meals that include them.
Put up a poster that includes this information in your kitchen or on your fridge you and your child could make the poster together.
Be aware of serving size
This way you can serve suitable amounts of food for your family. Knowing serving sizes discourages you from putting too much on your plates Children who are allowed to follow their own appetite will generally choose the right amount of healthy food for their needs.
Make a distinction between “everyday” and “sometimes” foods
“Everyday” food is the healthy stuff, whereas “sometimes” food is the not-so-healthy stuff that may be higher in fat, sodium or sugar. Eat it only occasionally. Talk to your child about the difference between “everyday” and “sometimes” food. Aim for zero sugary drinks and five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Establish healthy eating routines
Healthy eating isn’t only about food choices, it’s also about eating on a regular, predictable basis in a social way. For example, it’s important to:
- Eat breakfast every day
- Eat regular meals and several snacks throughout the day
- Eat meals together at the table instead of in front of the TV
- Allow enough time so meals can be eaten in a relaxed and unhurried way.
Praise children when they choose healthy foods
Remind them of the benefits of healthy eating. You’re more likely to encourage healthy habits by making mealtimes fun – you can do this by giving younger children some positive feedback. For example, you could try saying, “Wow, you picked a banana for morning snack! Delicious”. You could also say things like, “Drinking milk helps keep your bones strong”.
Involve your older child in making healthy lunchbox and snack selections. Encourage him to prepare these foods by himself, and ask him to help you prepare family meals. Have a variety of healthy foods available for your child to choose from, so you don’t have to worry about his choices.
Make physical activity part of everyday life
Many people think being active means playing sport or doing strenuous exercise, but that’s only one way of being active. For example, you can encourage your child to walk to school or a friend’s house instead of taking the car a short distance, walk the dog instead of watching TV, and use stairs instead of elevators or escalators. Be a role model and choose being active to show your child how easy it can be. Take a moment to notice and comment when your child chooses everyday physical activity.
Enjoy physical activity as a family
You could ride bikes together, or have a family visit to the park to throw a frisbee or kick a soccer ball. Talk about these as fun activities rather than exercise. Outdoor play is generally more active than indoor play, so make the most of outdoor time.
Parents who have a healthy diet and are physically active are much more likely to encourage the same habits in their children and also to their family. Keep in mind the power of modelling your child learns mostly from what you do yourself, not from what you tell her to do.