3 Tips on Raising Healthy, Fit Kids

By: Jonathan Thompson

Nearly every day parents see headlines like these.  “The key to wellness for our kids is more healthy school lunches.”  “The key to wellness is better nutritional labeling.”  “The key to wellness is controlling the menu at fast food restaurants.”

Yet, the real key to wellness for our children is our own behavior.  Based on a study published in The American Academy of Pediatrics that compared the diet of a parent to the effectiveness of implementing an exercise program that focused exclusively on the child found that modifying the parent’s diet had a greater, more noticeable impact on the child.

In a 2011 study it was discovered that mothers of young children typically have a higher intake of sugar, saturated fat and total calories than women without children. The same study also found that both mothers and fathers were less physically active than couples with no children.

Finding the time and energy to make lifestyle changes is the quandary of today’s world. If you are like me you don’t need a lot of convincing to immediately and wholeheartedly agree with that statement. Often, keeping up with our kids or just staying on top of our day-to-day routine consumes so much of our time and energy that we can’t even conceive of finding time to make changes in your diet or establish an exercise routine.

Sometimes we even struggle with the very idea of taking any sort of  “me time” to take care of our own needs and recharge.

The truth is, that neglecting our own well-being isn’t doing our children any favors. Our own habits of poor nutrition and inactivity could be setting a  harmful example for our children. The trends set now will affect our children’s health for the rest of their lives.

Clearly, then, we can have a massive influence on our child’s current – and future – health. Here are three practical ways to improve the wellness of our entire family.  Execution of these ideas will get you and yours started on the path to a healthier lifestyle.

1) In It Together

Notice the emphasis on “your entire family.” For this to work, everyone needs to be on-board. The goal is a lifestyle change.

First, comes a discussion with our spouse or partner about your desire to be healthier as a family and agree on realistic changes that you can all make.

 

Keep things enjoyable, while avoiding becoming a drill Sergeant. If members of your family aren’t all in at first, or even give you some opposition, don’t push them. Instead, keep changing your approach until you find something that they enjoy. Your kids hate spinach? Try cooking it a different way or even jump to a new vegetable altogether. Can’t convince your husband to go for a run? What about a leisurely bike ride? Remember: this is all about lifestyle changes. And no one adopts life-long habits that they don’t like.

Don’t ignore another priceless benefit of in it together: Strengthening your relationships. The time that you will spend talking to your partner and children while out for a hike is immeasurably more valuable than if you had been planted in front of the TV. To truly accomplish this, though, everyone has to be in agreement.

Make it about the fun.  When we do this enthusiasm rises and with enthusiasm comes more fun.  When we are having fun we are likely to want to repeat the activity and the more we repeat it the stronger the habit that will be formed.

2) Think Out Of The Box

The first thing is to understand that when selecting activities for our family is that we don’t have to be bound by the idea of “traditional” exercise. You probably won’t have a lot of success trying to get your 5-year old to do deep squats. The amazing, liberating truth is that anything that gets you and your children moving counts and will go a long way towards improving your health and strengthening your relationship.

Second, don’t worry about the length of the exercise. Many studies have shown that short bouts of exercise spread throughout the day are just as beneficial as one long workout session.

Suggestion: take 10 minutes every few hours to play catch and you could easily rack up your 30 minutes of exercise for the day while giving everyone a break from routine.

Third, Take some creative liberties with classic games to make them more challenging or engaging. Does plain old catch sound too easy to give you a decent workout? Try playing with a large kickball and throwing it just to the side of your catcher. This little tweak will force them to twist and reach to catch the ball, engaging a wide range of muscles and building hand-eye coordination in the process.

Suggestion: While modifying activities take advantage of a a truly incredible creative resource: your children. Encourage them to use their imaginations and just guide the process to make sure what you’re doing is safe. They will feel part of the decision-making process and help to foster a creative, fun environment for everyone.

If you’re still struggling with the idea of taking time out of your day to play rather than doing more “necessary” things, try making your everyday chores into a family game.

 

Suggestion: Turn weeding the yard or cleaning the house into a race, and make these otherwise mundane activities fun, get your kids active and secretly get some help around the house.

3) In The Kitchen

Now that we’ve got everyone moving and having fun let’s talk a bit about improving our diet while helping our kids improve theirs.

Here are a couple of thoughts on getting the whole family involved in creating a healthy lifestyle.:

In a  2013 poll conducted by the British Nutrition Foundation found that many children are utterly confused about where their food comes from. The survey revealed that ideas like “cheese comes from plants,” “pasta is made out of meat,” and “tomatoes grow underground” were prevalent among British children, showing that many lacked any knowledge about their food before it was on their plate.

Suggestion:  Make at least two nights a week family cooking night.  The idea is to get everyone involved in preparing the meal.  Make it a game. Give each member of the family an assignment to read about one ingredient that will be used in the meal.  Then one by one report and discuss what they discovered to the family.  This builds an understanding of food, its sources and the nutrition it provides.

This same study reported that 85 percent of the children that were polled enjoyed cooking, though most of them rarely did.

Suggestion:  Make meal preparation a family event.  It doesn’t matter if its breakfast, lunch, snacks or dinner, just do it together. Don’t forget that sampling is part of the fun!!

We can make a difference for our children in showing them the way to a healthy, happy lifestyle.  One without obesity and constant weight problems, one that provides the energy to attack each day with the enthusiasm needed to be all that they were meant to be.

Get started now!

Sources:
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2011/04/11/peds.2010-3218.abstract
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21444600
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11601564
http://www.bbc.com/news/education-22730613