All parents want what’s best for their kids and giving them a healthy start in nutrition and exercise is a great way to help them on a lifelong path of health, vitality and longevity. The epidemic of obesity is not limited to adults. Now, one in three children in the U.S. is considered overweight or obese. September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month so we’re sharing tips to keep your kids healthy and help avoid the major health complications that can occur from obesity.
Tip #1: Teach Your Children about Making Healthy Choices
One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is teaching them to make healthy choices. This includes exercise, diet, sleep, hygiene habits and emotional well-being through love, friendships and family. As we all know, we cannot expect our kids to learn these important life lessons unless we, ourselves, are role models for the habits and behaviors. Talk about healthy choices as you’re making them for your family and be sure you’re actively showing your children your healthy lifestyle too. When mom and dad take time to exercise or choose veggies over French fries, it gives children a first-hand example of prioritizing health.
While you can help make healthy choices for your children when they are young, ultimately they will be responsible for their own health as they grow into adults. Your influence now can carry over throughout their lifetime. Avoiding unhealthy pitfalls can set your kids up for less risk of major diseases like diabetes and heart disease and help them enjoy the many benefits that a healthy body has to offer.
Tip #2: Walk to School and Anywhere Else You Can
Countless studies show that a sedentary lifestyle contributes to many ailments, illnesses and obesity. Get moving by walking anywhere and everywhere you can. A daily walk to and from school is a great idea if you live close enough. Or try parking about 1/3 of a mile away from school and walking the rest of the way. (This may help you avoid carpool traffic too!)
Little steps to increase daily walking are helpful as well, such as parking further away from stores and restaurants, taking stairs instead of escalators or elevators, or intentionally making several trips to carry things around your house. If your schedule allows, take a family walk a few times a week. Not only will you get some physical exercise, you’ll also have some terrific family bonding time.
Tip #3: Play Sports or Active Games Together
This one is not only fun, it is amazing for your kids’ bodies. You don’t have to be super athletic to enjoy a game of soccer, tennis or basketball. Or keep it simple and ride bikes, play tag or go for a swim. You can also make up your own games to get your creative juices flowing, such as obstacle courses or testing your coordination with balls, hula-hoops and other outdoor toys. Whatever it is that keeps you active and allows you to enjoy fitness, do it!
Tip #4: Grow Fruits & Vegetables and Cook with Them
Kids who garden are more likely to eat healthily because they’ll want to try the “fruits” of their labor. It’s pretty simple to buy seasonal fruit and vegetable seeds and plant them. If you don’t have space for a full garden, you can use pots in an area that gets sunlight. Involving your kids in the growing process and then cooking with your produce offers many lessons in addition to healthy eating, including: the life-cycle of plants, how to care for living things, and helping out in the kitchen.
Tip #5: Serve Your Kids a Well-Balanced, Wholesome Diet
Beyond what you grow yourselves, be sure to serve your kids a well-balanced, wholesome diet. You started this path with nourishing your baby with breast milk. Let that set the stage for your children’s clean and healthy diet. The USDA’s “Choose My Plate” campaign encourages fruits and veggies as half of every meal, paired with lean proteins, whole grains and a few servings of dairy daily. It’s also essential to limit sugar intake from candy and sweets and drinks like juice and soda. Teach your children about nutrition so they can take pride in their healthy diet.
Tip #6: Be a Healthy Lifestyle Advocate in your Community
Advocating for a healthy lifestyle to support National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month in your community will help your own family and other families around you. Ways you can be an agent for change in your community are: starting a community garden or initiating a vegetable garden at your child’s school; host family-friendly events where physical activity is at the forefront; develop a lesson plan in the form of a skit or puppet show that you can share with community groups and schools; participate in spreading the word about National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and other like-minded campaigns such as We Can! to educate parents and children on the cause.