Healthy habits are about much more than just what you eat and how you exercise. You are the most important model for your kids and helping them develop healthy habits early in life is key to seeing them off to a successful adulthood. Some general guidelines for implementation: practice moderation, walk the talk and establish rules and stick to them.
In my experience and after considerable research, I suggest the following:
– Eating breakfast and lunch together every day may not be possible, but try to eat dinner as a family every night. The are many benefits to eating together, including physical, mental and emotional. The Family Dinner Project is a great resource and features recipes and tips for making this goal a reality.
– Avoid added sugar. Aside from breakfast cereal that may have 2 – 3 teaspoons of added sugar per serving, be careful of sugary drinks and candy. Non-diet soda contains 26 – 31 teaspoons of added sugar.
– If you’re feeding your kids candy, let it be chocolate. At Halloween, our dentist reminds the kids to choose chocolate rather than sticky, gummy candy and especially the kind that is sour. The candies have a high level of acid, which can eat away at those beautiful, white teeth.
– Brush twice a day. Plaque continuously builds on the teeth during the day. The bacteria in plaque has been linked to gingivitis and heart disease. Set a precedent for your kids to follow.
– Offer your kids water, not a sports drink. You may think it’s a healthier choice, but a sports drink can pack a whopping 14 – 19 teaspoons of sugar per 32-ounce bottle. That’s a lot of sugar!
– Serve fruits and vegetables at every meal with the goal of getting five servings per day. Remember, your kids may already be down several servings by the time dinner rolls around, so load up their plates with plenty of the good stuff.
– Have an established bedtime for each child and stick to it. To ensure a restful sleep, remove all electronics and screens one hour before hitting the hay.
– Limit screen time during the day and encourage reading. I know, I know …
– Stay active. School is finished for the year, and our newest goal includes keeping the kids outside, especially right after dinner, doing chores, playing, riding and exploring.
Take heart. No family is perfect and we’re still working on implementing many of these tips, too.