Top 10 Things to Start Doing Now to Be Healthy – Helpful tips for parents and their children
1. Eat BREAKFAST. I realize mornings can be hectic, and some people may not even be hungry to eat right away after they wake up. But breakfast IS the most important meal of the day. You’ve just fasted (since last night’s dinner) for the last 10-12 hours, it’s time to “break-the-fast.” Your body is primed and ready to get some good nutrients moving through it. Eat a balanced meal to keep you full and feed your brain (always shoot for a carb and a protein). My kids’ favorite go-to meals are oatmeal with fruit and nuts/seeds mixed in, scrambled eggs and banana pancakes, Greek yogurt and a whole grain-low sugar cereal.
2. Don’t drink your sugar. Sugary sodas and juices are one of the top culprits for many of our society’s current health issues. I am not saying never, but minimal in moderation. One can of ginger-ale is 43 grams of sugar! That’s more than a full size large candy bar. Sugar is everywhere, cutting out sodas and sugar loaded fruit juices not only will improve your kids’ health, but it will save you a lot of money. Replace it with water, throw a lemon and some local honey in it and you have home-made lemonade! Once you and your kids ditch it, you will be surprised how you begin to actually crave water again.
3. Choose whole vitamins. Even the best of eaters don’t get their daily needs met every day through nutrition alone. I recommend finding a whole food based vitamin (not the synthetic, sugar loaded, cute shaped ones). I’ve been giving my kids JuicePlus for years, but there are many variations that serve the same purpose. Along with a multi, I give my kids a good source of vitamin D (during the winter months), healthy omegas (brain food) and a probiotic (healthy gut and digestion).
4. Use the 80/20 rule for processed foods. I realized it’s almost impossible to keep processed foods out of their little fingers. The key here is teaching them moderation; some of anything is okay, just not ALL the time. With my kids, if their morning snack was a granola bar or rice cakes, their afternoon snack is going to be some fruit/real fruit cup/dried fruit or veggies.
5. Plant a garden with them. Last year was the first year I planted my own garden, and it was also the first year my six year old tried collard greens (which he liked). There’s something magical about kids having their hands, literally, in their own food. When they see how and where it comes from, and they have a vested interest in it growing, they are more apt to try new things.
6. Use the “yuck” rule. If they say “yuck,” they have to at least take one bite. Studies suggest it takes three separate tastes of a new taste to develop a taste for it. Just like trying new foods with a baby, have your kids try something several times before you dismiss it.
7. Limit video game/screen time. Especially during the school week, only allowing limited screen time is essential to them getting adequate movement in their day. Every child and age is different, find out what works, look for triggers and listen to your gut on what it appropriate for your child.
8. Get them to bed on time. Sleep deprivation causes depression, low self-esteem, difficulty in concentration and/or focus, difficulty with critical thinking, problem solving and hyperactivity. For ages 5-12, a good rule of thumb is about 10 hours per night. There is no replacement for a good nights’ sleep, be sure to set the stage and talk to them about how important good sleep is to their bodies growth and development.
9. Get them involved in a charity. Just like adults, focusing on other’s needs seems to magically take the pressure off our own lives. Find something your family can be passionate about and become involved with in your community. At any level, it teaches them the importance of a community and living to serve a greater purpose.
10. Be involved in their lives/ask the right questions. What seems insignificant on a large scale is their whole world. Ask them specific questions about their days, not a generalized “How was your day?” Really give them the time and attention that you crave as an individual…become experts on what’s going on at school, on the playground and with the kids on the block. Ask things like “Who said something that hurt someone’s feelings today?” or “What did you do that made you or someone feel good about themself today?” You will get so much more information out of them than the typical response of “school was boring, everything went fine.”
By guest contributor: Teresa