10 Tips for Raising a Healthy Child
Raising healthy children in today's culture can be a daunting task for many parents, yet it's one of the most important life skills that parents will teach their children. Here are 10 tips to get you started on the right track:
1. Take time to get educated. Most parents know very little about what their children’s bodies need for proper growth, development and learning, so understanding the basics of children’s nutrition helps lay the foundation for making good choices and decisions as a family. Many younger parents are products of the “dinner in a box” generation, that is they’re eating a lot of packaged, processed and preserved foods and very few live or “whole foods” from nature. Food is fuel – you can eat any food you like but there are certain foods and nutrients that your body needs for good health and no matter how you slice it, if you want a healthy family, these foods will need to be part of your diet.
a) Eat lots of foods from nature – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, lean meats and fish. At least 50% of your daily calories should come from “whole” foods.
b) Minimize “white” foods – white sugar, bread, pasta, flour and others. Also minimize packaged, processed and preserved foods. These foods have calories but very few nutrients that our bodies need for good health.
c) Minimize “bad” fats (saturated and trans fat – found in meat, butter, dairy products and packaged foods) and emphasize the “good” fats (mono and polyunsaturated) in foods found in nature. Our brains are 60% fat so we need the “good” fats for proper brain growth and development. Omega’s are one of the good fats our bodies need so if your kids don’t eat foods with Omega’s in them, it’s important to supplement.
d) Drink more water and fewer sugary drinks. Sugary drinks have lots of calories but very little or no nutrition, and puts extra calories into our children's bodies that have to be burned off. The average child drinks 66,000 calories of soda pop and/or sugary drinks per year. This equals 19 pounds of body fat!
e) Eat 7-13 servings of fruits/vegetables a day (a serving is ½ c. of a more dense fruit or vegetable like apples or carrots; 1 c. of vegetables like lettuce, spinach, etc.) For more information on serving sizes go to: www.choosemyplate.gov (USDA website). Fruits and vegetables are the most important foods of all because they contain most of the nutrients that our bodies need to stay healthy. Sadly, less than 20% of our children eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, and 25% of our children don’t eat any! If you're like most families and you have trouble eating enough fruits and vegetables, I recommend Juice Plus+® whole food products. Juice Plus+ is scientifically proven and has the micro-nutrition from 30 different fruits, vegetables and grains and comes in capsules and soft chew form for children. For more information, go to dpool.juiceplus.com or contact me.
2. Have meals together on a regular basis. Eating healthy foods together as a family will help your children learn healthy eating habits. Studies show that families that eat meals together on a regular basis have fewer weight and health issues.
3. Don’t skip breakfast. Studies show that kids learn better if they eat breakfast. Start the night before, mix juice, slice fruit, and set the table. Encourage your kids to make enough time in the morning by offering them quick and easy foods they like, such as whole grain bagels and muffins, fruit, yogurt (natural, low-sugar) and fruit smoothies.
4. Make healthy foods available at home. If you stock your refrigerator and shelves with healthy foods, that’s what your family will eat. Limit sugary cereals, sodas and soft drinks. Try to have at least two fruits or vegetables with every meal. Keep a bowl of fruit or your kitchen table or counter. Wash and cut up fruits and vegetables as soon as you get home from the store and keep them in the refrigerator, along with a low-fat dip or salsa. Choose whole-grain breads, bagels and cereals. For children over age 2, choose 1% of fat-free milk, rather than whole or 2% milk. Rice, soy, almond or coconut milk are also good choices.
5. Limit fast food and other low-nutrient foods . There’s no need to ban the chips, candy and drive-thru forever – just make these “sometimes” foods
6. Help your kids have healthy attitudes about food Don’t force your kids to clean their plates. Let them decide when they’re full. Don’t use food as a reward for good behavior. Try stickers for younger kids and family outings (like going to a sports event) for older kids. Don’t use food as a way of showing your kids that you love them.
7. Be aware of and exercise portion control. In general, Americans eat much more food than our bodies need. Our stomachs are only about the size of our fist. If we can learn to control our portions, we will more easily maintain a healthy weight. We can exercise portion control by:
1) Using smaller plates when eating meals.
2) Just say “no” to second helpings.
3) When you’re eating out, share a meal
4) Measure your portions.
8. Make a healthy lifestyle a priority. Good health and nutrition doesn’t happen because we want it to, it happens when we’re intentional about the way we make our choices and set our priorities. Our health, good or bad, isn’t just a matter of chance, it’s a matter of choice!
9. Exercise regularly as a family. Part of raising a healthy child means being active as a family. To be healthy, kids should get between 30-60 minutes of exercise a day. It’s not as important what you do as much as it is to do something that gets your heart rate up on a regular basis. Take a walk, ride bikes, hike, dance, play sports – whatever sounds fun to you, just do it!
10. Be a good role model. All of the education in the world will have a limited effect if parents aren’t role modeling healthy eating and lifestyle behaviors for their children. It’s up to you to establish the healthy habits that you want your kids to have throughout life. The best gift we can give our children is the gift of health – we can have a great education and live in a nice home but if we’re not healthy, we won’t be able to enjoy life to the fullest. Our children’s future depends on it so I encourage families to make it one of your top priorities.