What’s Inside: The 6 healthy habits to teach your kids while they’re young that are proven to help them grow into healthy adults. Sponsored by Nestlé.
Teaching kids to adopt healthy habits sometimes feels like an uphill battle. They’re constantly bombarded with advertising for sugary treats and fast food on TV. Schools often have junk food readily available, like ice cream or chocolate milk at lunch. Video games, television, tablets, and computers encourage kids to sit inside rather than getting out to play.
I’m excited to partner with Nestlé to spread the word about their United for Healthier Kids program. The goal of the United for Healthier Kids is to help parents raise healthier and happier kids by encouraging healthy eating, drinking and lifestyle habits for children under 12 years old.
6 Healthy Habits to Teach Kids for a Lifetime of Good Health
The following six healthy habits are the cornerstones of the United for Healthier Kids program. They’re backed by science — created and endorsed by an outside panel of experts that make up the Global Advisory Panel.
These 6 positive lifestyle habits will help your children learn to make better choices on their own so that they grow into healthy adults.
1. Manage Portions
Did you know that over the past 20 years, the average portion size for most foods Americans consume has nearly doubled? (source)
Managing portions means eating smarter, and paying attention to what’s on your plate:
- Always read labels — many food items packaged for individual consumption actually contain more than one serving.
- Fill your plates with larger portions of fruits and vegetables — Filling up on the “good stuff” leaves less room for junk.
- Show your children appropriate portions — Kids often eat what’s put in front of them, so it’s helpful to demonstrate how portion sizes measure up. (For example, using a fist to measure a serving of protein).
2. Choose Nutritious and Varied Options
A varied diet will help ensure that your kids get the nutrition their body needs. Encourage your kids to try new items from their favorite food groups, like salmon instead of chicken.
Another way to switch it up is the “rainbow game,” where you eat at least one different colored fruit or vegetable every night. The goal is to eat all of the colors of the rainbow at least one time each week.
3. Choose to Drink Water
Beverages are an often-overlooked source of excess sugar and calories. Surprisingly, even seemingly “healthy” drinks like fruit juice can contain as much sugar as a soda!
It’s ok to enjoy juice as an occasional treat, as long as it’s viewed as just that — a treat. When it comes to hydration, nothing beats water, so that should be the go-to drink of choice.
Even if your kids are used to drinking juice or soda, they can and will learn to drink water, and even love it! I can say this from personal experience weaning one daughter off juice and teaching another to love water from day one. Here are a few tips that worked for us:
- Set an example by drinking water yourself — parental influence is the strongest factor in kids’ lives and future choices.
- Don’t keep juice drinks or soda in the house — if it’s not there, it’s not even an option!
- Make it interesting — wow your kids with amazing water facts (for example, their bodies are made up of about 60% water). When they know just how important water is for their bodies to function, you can bet they’ll want to drink it!
4. Enjoy Meals Together
In our busy days full of work, school, activities, playdates, sports, and homework, it might seem difficult to find time to sit down together as a family. However, studies show that family dinner has an incredible impact on children’s lives, so it should be a priority when possible.
Studies show that family dinner benefits children in three major ways:
- Children who eat dinner as a family are more likely to develop healthy eating habits as adults.
- Family dinner increases kids’ vocabulary even more than when you read aloud to them.
- Kids who experience regular family meals are less likely to develop depression or experiment with drugs.
Read more about how to establish a successful family dinner routine here.
5. Move more, Sit Less
Technology benefits our lives in countless ways, but it also contributes to a more sedentary lifestyle. Making exercise a family activity makes it more fun and your kids more likely to get involved.
Exercise really can be fun! Taking family walks around the neighborhood every afternoon or hitting the playground are simple ways to get moving. Best of all, they’re free!
Read more about the 10 amazing benefits of walking here.
6. Feed your Baby Like a Baby
One of the biggest worries among new parents is whether their baby is getting the right amount of food. Whether breastfed or formula-fed, if your baby is gaining weight and soiling diapers, then they’re likely on the right track.
Babies give pretty clear signals when they are hungry: crying, fussing, and rooting. They also let you know when they’ve had enough to eat, though these signals may be more subtle.
Signs a baby is full:
- Turns away from bottle
- Refuses when bottle is offered again
- Spits up (note: spitting up is common among healthy babies and not necessarily cause for concern)
By watching for these cues, you’ll be able to tell when your baby is truly hungry or if they’ve had enough. Pushing a baby to eat past the point of satiation can train a baby to ignore their own signals, setting them up for overeating later in life.
When it comes to introducing solids, follow your pediatrician’s advice. You may hear other parents talk about starting early or trying new foods for fun, but it’s important to wait until your baby is physically ready for solid food. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until around 6 months of age before introducing solids, even cereals. (source)
More Healthy Lifestyle Resources for Families
The United for Healthier Kids program is planned for launch in the US later in 2017. To see an example of what’s in store, check out the United for Healthy Kids Middle East website (English-language) that’s live now.