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10 Healthy Habits to Start Now With Your Kids and Grandkids
Unhealthy habits that begin in childhood typically extend into adult stages of life.
With the obesity rate and increasing health problems skyrocketing in children, it's never too early to start sharing healthy habits with your kids and grandkids.
There are certainly more than 10 healthy habits that can be started. This is just a handful of suggestions. Readers are encouraged to add and share their own ideas and healthy habits in the comment section at the end of this article!
1. Get your kids moving each day
Research shows that at least one hour of exercise is needed each day (by both adults and kids) for good health. Long periods of being seated increase the risk of obesity, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Here are a few ideas for starters:
- Take a family bike ride.
- Play tag with your kids
- Get a family game of basketball going
- Find a state park and go hiking
- Find a pool and go swimming
...the possibilities are endless
2. Fill Your Kitchen With Healthy Options
Keep your pantry free of junk food and sugary drinks. And don't try to hide the bad stuff - get rid of it completely or bring it home only for special occasions.
Always have a fruit basket sitting out.
Stock the 'fridge with carrot, celery sticks, and other raw veggies and a low fat dip or dressing.
3. Have A Healthy Foods Contest With Your Kids
Create some family fun with a contest...
During the month, go through the alphabet and challenge each other to eat a fruit or veggie that starts with each letter
- A= apple
- B= banana
- C= carrot
Who can make it all the way through the alphabet?
Or have a "designer" healthy food night - let the kids design a new creation or make variations of existing fun foods (for example, "ants on a log" - celery with peanut butter and raisins on top)
Let the kids invite friends over to sample their healthy creation.
4. Redefine "dessert"
Skip the bribe. Rewarding kids with something sweet if they eat their dinner is one of the worse habits to get into. That "reward" stimuli carries into adulthood. The feeling and need to have something sweet after each meal is one of the biggest struggles to overcome as an adult.
Instead, give the kids something healthy after dinner like yogurt, fruit or low fat popcorn.
5. Teach Kids Where Real Food Comes From
Take the time to understand and share with your kids where food really comes from. It's never to early to start learning how to read labels with them.
Together, learn the difference between living and non-living foods. Processed foods are not living and have been stripped of most beneficial nutrients.
Let your kids plant some patio tomatoes, a small container garden, or a regular garden if you have the space so they can learn and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
6. Keep A Family Food Journal
Start a journal with you kids. Each day, keep track of how many fruits and veggies you each had. This can be tied back into family contests. Which family member can eat the most fruits and veggies?
7. Water, Water, and more Water!
Take the time to explain the importance of water and hydration.
This is another habit that can also be tied back into the family food journal - track how much water the family drinks each day and then do some fun math at the end of the year to see how many gallons you each had.
8. Brush Teeth Right After Every Meal
Getting kids into this habit not only keeps their teeth healthy and happy, it discourages snacking after meals. And don't forget to floss! Flossing on a regular basis can add years to your life - seriously!
9. Set Good Bedtime Habits - Get Enough ZZZ's
Getting enough sleep is important at any age. Sleep deprivation in children affects mental growth and over time can contribute to a wide range of diseases: diabetes, mental illness, heart disease, and obesity.
10. Get Out to Enjoy and Explore Nature
Most kids now run the risk of what's now recognized as "nature deficit disorder". Studies have shown that exposure to nature is critical for both the physical and emotional development of children.
Practice What You Preach (and teach)
"Monkey see, Monkey do" - right!?!
Just telling your kids or grandkids what to do isn't going to work. They need to see you choosing and engaging in these healthy habits with them!
Readers are encourage to share additional ideas in the comment section below!
My Top 3 "Must-Read" Books for Parents and Grandparents
1. Last Child In the Woods: saving our children from nature-deficit disorder by Richard Louv
2. Food Rules by Michael Pollen (this is "quick read" that can easily be read with or by kids)
3. Food, Inc. (as a book or DVD) - A startling insight on the cost of putting value and food convenience over nutrition and the environment.