As parents, we are all responsible for teaching our kids the basics to lead healthy lives. Of course, the best time to start teaching these lessons to our children is when they are very young. Just as toddlers start to mimic your actions and words, even before they have turned two, they are also very aware of the things you eat and the things you do. Primarily, young children are learning about our choices by our example, so it is important to remember to practice what we preach.
Your children need to see you making healthy food choices and making time for exercise. Because of the lifestyles of Americans and their love of fast food, children in the United States are gaining too much weight, which is adversely affecting their health. Exercise, in all forms, has been put to the wayside. It is a known fact that weight problems that develop during childhood can lead to serious weight-related illnesses. And this can carry through to adult health problems. So, we need to address these problems now before they get started.
What can You Do? When food shopping, read the labels. Choose foods that are low in sugar, low in fat and have few additives. Be aware that even "low-fat" foods may include ingredients such as added sugar. Did you know that fructose and sucrose are other ways of saying 'sugar"? Choose plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season. And try to alternate the fruits and veggies that you serve your family, however, if they have favorites be sure to include them often. Include whole grains in the form of whole wheat bagels (we love the mini ones), wraps and pastas. The operative word here is variety. Emphasizing fruits, veggies and grains will help your children to learn to enjoy these foods and they will continue this trend as they get older.
Serve your children water or milk instead of high-calorie fruit drinks and soda. Reserve these drinks for special occasions or parties. When your kids are thirsty, encourage them to drink water. Since are bodies are made up of % water, this is always the best choice for good health.
Be sure to limit the amount of time your children spend watching television, using the computer or playing video games. This habit has to be instilled at an early age. Encourage, instead, that your kids go outside to play for, at least, a part of every day. Fresh air, sunshine and exercise are beneficial to all of us. Try to set aside time for family activities that incorporate some type of physical activity, at least a few times each week. Go bike riding, play catch or tag or create some fun zany, outdoor races. Just have some good old-fashioned fun. Kids love it when the whole family is together and so do we!
Sharon Pierce McCullough