Summer camps and play dates are over and school is back in session. Some kids are jumping with joy about being back with their classmates every day and others aren’t exactly ecstatic with the idea of spending five days a week in a desk. Either way, all kids are now spending a lot of their time being influenced by external sources in their environment including their peers, teachers, social media, and television. With childhood obesity on the rise, making sure kids eat right and get plenty of exercise is vital so that they form good health habits from a young age. Parents and caregivers can play a big role in children’s nutrition and health, teaching kids about healthy foods, being a good role model, and making sure that physical activity is incorporated into each day. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages families to take the following steps:
- Shop Smart. To encourage a healthy lifestyle, get your children involved in selecting the food that will appear at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table.
- Cook Healthy. Involve your child in the cutting, mixing and preparation of food. They will learn about food and may even be enticed to try new things that they helped prepare.
- Eat Right. Sit down together as a family to enjoy a wonderful meal and the opportunity to share the day’s experiences with one another. Research indicates that those families who eat together have a stronger bond, and children have higher self-confidence and perform better in school.
- Healthy Habits. You can help kids form great, healthy habits by setting a good example. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, choose lower-sodium options, and make at least half the grains your family eats whole grains. For beverages, choose water over sugary drinks, and opt for fat-free or low-fat milk.
- Get Moving. Aside from being a great way to spend time together, regular physical activity is vital for strengthening muscle and bones, promoting a healthy body weight, supporting learning, developing social skills and building self-esteem. Kids are encouraged to be active for 60 minutes per day.
Before long, your kids will be making their own food choices. So it’s important to make sure they have all the tools they need to make the right ones!