Today’s parents are increasingly aware of the health risks associated with poor nutrition and low activity levels in children. Doctors, school teachers and other health professionals have been working to educate children and promote healthy lifestyles for families for years. They have made it known that today’s generation is at a much higher risk for such diseases as diabetes, obesity and heart disease than their parents.
In spite of these efforts, news reports have shown that kids’ eating habits have deteriorated rather than improved in the past ten years. Once again, doctors are warning parents that it is vitally necessary to promote healthy eating habits and active lifestyles in children.
Encouraging Children to Eat Healthy Food
Getting a child to eat nutritious food can be very challenging, particularly if that child is already used to eating a diet filled with sugary drinks and less-than-nutritious snacks. The following is a list of some ideas that may help incorporate tasty and healthy food into a child’s diet.
- Hide it. Many children (and adults!) do not find green vegetables appetizing, and yet these are vital to a healthy diet. The good news is that many of these foods can be “hidden” in other foods. Many parents have had luck pureeing vegetables, freezing it in ice cube trays and then throwing in these cubes full of vitamins and nutrition into sauces, soups and chili. This boosts the nutritional content of food without much change to the taste or texture of the food.
- Smoothies are a great-tasting way to pack a lot of nutrition into a relatively small amount of food. A smoothie usually consists of blending together some milk and/or juice, some yogurt, a banana and another fruit and some ice cubes. Other items such as leafy green vegetables, protein powder and fiber can be added to boost nutritional content.
- Dips and sauces. Most children love to dip their food. While ketchup is certainly an old standby, many children enjoy other dips such as ranch dressing, sour cream, hummus or yogurt for their crackers, fruits and vegetables.
- Whole grains. Whole grains are an important source of fiber, vitamins and minerals and can be found in items like whole grain breads, pastas and cereals.
- Water. Studies have shown that many children drink far too much juice and not nearly enough water. Giving a child a measured and limited amount of juice that is allowed to be consumed in a day is extremely beneficial to their health.
Encouraging Fitness in Children
Regular exercise is equally as important as healthy food. With temptations such as video games, movies and television with which to fight, parents often feel like they are fighting an uphill battle. A few simple changes can help a child become more active in their day to day life.
- Walk. Walking is one of the simplest forms of exercise and can be incorporated into daily living in small but effective ways. Parking a little further from an entrance, taking stairs instead of an elevator, walking to the corner store or to school are all ways in which exercise can easily be added to a routine.
- Bike riding. Most children truly enjoy bike riding. Riding a bicycle can become transportation for children to and from school or just a form of recreation and fun.
- Extracurricular. Most communities have a vast variety of activities and sports for children. From dancing, soccer and gymnastics to family yoga and martial arts, there is literally something for everybody.
- Limited screen time. Studies have shown that most children claim to get more time in front of televisions and computers than their parents are saying. Whether or not this is true, it is important to limit the amount of time that a child spends in front of a screen.
Many parents feel as though they are fighting a losing battle when it comes to encouraging healthy lifestyles in their children. With some relatively simple changes, parents can heed the warnings of the medical community and help today’s children achieve a healthy life.
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