Today, about one in three American children is obese or overweight. While these numbers are sad, the truth is that parents can turn this epidemic around by teaching their kids healthy habits while they’re still young.
It’s important to teach your kids about eating healthy and getting lots of physical activity from an early age. This is because people who learn healthy habits as children are more likely to live a healthy lifestyle for the rest of their lives.
If you teach your child to live a healthy lifestyle when they’re young, they are less likely to grow up to become overweight or obese. It can also decrease their risk of health issues that can develop due to being overweight. These include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, certain types of cancer and more.
How to be a healthy role model for your child
Here are six simple but powerful ways you can be a strong role model for your kids and teach them to live a healthy lifestyle.
1. Be physically active together
Regular physical activity is important for your kids’ growth and overall well-being. Encourage them to get moving by changing how your kids spend their free time. Instead of letting them spend hours watching TV or surfing the web, get the whole family moving! Ride bikes together, go for a daily walk after dinner or simply head into the yard to kick a ball around or play a game of tag.
2. Drink lots of water
Water — not soda, fruit juice or sweet tea — is the best thing you can drink to quench your thirst, and our bodies need lots of water each day to run smoothly. Plus, water doesn’t have added sugars like fruit juice and soft drinks do.
Make sure your children see you drinking water throughout the day, and give them plenty of opportunities to drink water too. Get everyone their own special water bottles in different colors and patterns to make it more fun.
3. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
Eating fruits and vegetables every day helps children grow and develop, and it can reduce their risk of many chronic diseases. Always keep fresh fruit on hand for a quick, healthy snack, and include fruits and vegetables with every meal.
4. Introduce new foods often
It’s important to introduce your kids to new foods and flavors regularly. Offer your kids the new food along with something they already like, and encourage them to at least try the new food. If they don’t like it after tasting it, they don’t have to finish it — but it’s important that they at least try.
Be sure to keep serving the foods your kids have tried and don’t like over and over. It can take as many 30 tries for your child to develop a taste for the food! This is a great way to get your child to try out all types of vegetables.
5. Eat healthy snacks
Healthy snacks help kids get all the nutrients they need, but not all snacks are created equal. The healthiest choices include fresh fruits and vegetables, reduced-fat dairy products and whole grains. Stock your fridge with things like apple slices with peanut butter, baby carrots with hummus, low-fat string cheese and hardboiled eggs. Limit or avoid snacks that are high in sugar or saturated fats, like chips, crackers and snack cakes.
6. Plan activities that don’t revolve around food
Instead of making eating out at a restaurant your main family outing, try to plan an activity that isn’t focused on food. Go bowling, take a painting class, go to the library and take out a bunch of books or go see a family-friendly play. The options are endless.
Not only will this create strong family bonds, it will also help your children appreciate things other than food, helping them to become well-rounded adults with a healthy relationship with food.
Starting a healthy lifestyle early in life is critical to giving your kids a shot at becoming healthy adults. Use the tips above to put your children on the path to living a healthy life in the long run.