9 tips for helping kids develop healthy habitsNutrition · Jun 17, 2020
Nutrition and regular exercise are critical to the maintenance of good health. So how do you, as a parent, help your children develop these healthy habits from a young age?
Be a good role model – Children emulate their parents. When your children see you eating well, getting physically active and loading up half of your dinner plate with vegetables, they may be more likely to adopt those healthy habits.
Make meal times family time – When everyone sits down together to eat there is less chance of children eating poorly-chosen foods or over-snacking – but the benefits don’t stop there. Research shows that children who regularly eat meals with their families have lower rates of obesity as both children and adults, higher self-esteem and a more positive outlook, lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, school behavioural problems and depression, better grades, higher reading scores and better vocabulary1.
Know your mealtime responsibilities – Parents’ responsibility at mealtimes is to decide what to serve, and when and where to serve it; your children’s responsibility is to decide whether to eat and how much. As such, you should not force your children to eat everything on their plates or use food as a reward or punishment. You should also not become a “short-order cook,” rushing to cook an alternate meal when your child refuses to eat what’s served.
Get the whole family moving – Plan times for everyone to get moving together. Take brisk walks after dinner, ride bikes, play Frisbee, go swimming or play tag outside. Everyone will benefit from the exercise and the time together. Leave your cell phones behind.
Limit screen time to two hours per day – Television, video games, cell phones and computers may lead to a sedentary lifestyle and excessive snacking, which can eventually lead to serious health problems. Sit down with your children and write a list of fun activities they can do when they get bored. Keep the list on your fridge for easy access.
Encourage physical activities your children enjoy – Let your children experiment with different activities until they find something that they truly love. They may stick with it longer if they love it! Be careful not to over-schedule their activities, however; free time at home allows for creative play to develop.
Read food labels with your children – This is a habit that can change behaviour for a lifetime. You can learn more about reading nutrition labels from your Care Centres dietitian and then teach what you’ve learned to your children.
Remove calorie-rich temptations – Although everything can be enjoyed in moderation, reducing the calorie-rich temptations of high-fat, high-sugar, processed snack foods can help your children develop healthy eating habits.
Be realistic – Achievable goals and limits are crucial to adopting any new behaviour. Gradual changes can make a big difference in your health over time, so start small and build up.
As you work to help your children develop healthy habits, remember to keep things positive.
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1 Parker-Pope, T. “How to have better family meals.” Accessed 2021. The New York Times.