Help your kids learn healthy habits

Integrate better living into your family’s routine to help prevent chronic disease down the road

Between playdates, homework, soccer practice, and everything in between, making sure your child stays healthy can feel like a daunting task. To make matters even more complex, parents now have to be mindful of the way technology affects their children’s sleep and activity levels. Integrating healthy habits into your family’s daily routine can help them stay healthy, now and in the future.

For example, an Ohio State University study found a possible correlation between household routines (including regular mealtimes, bedtimes, and limited screen time) and a lowered risk of obesity. Sarah Anderson, the study’s lead author, shared that family pressures don’t always allow for consistency; however, these routines can help improve children’s emotional and physical health over time.

Consistency is hard. But finding time to track and maintain your child’s health could, in turn, improve the health of the entire family. Here are some tips for easily making wellness part of your lifestyle:

  • Make a weekly physical activity goal as a family. While your kids likely get some activity during lunchtime and after school, add a family activity once a week to make sure they exercise enough. Incorporate a fun walk at the beach if you live near the coast, take a hike in one of California’s nine national parks (or just around your neighborhood), spend an hour at the playground, or play ball at the park. Keep in mind that while many adult activity trackers challenge you to 10,000 steps, for children between 6 and 12 years old, the goal is even higher. One study found that children should be averaging between 12,000 and 16,000 steps per day. To encourage participation, make a competition to see who can reach their daily step goal first.

  • Eat dinner together as a family. If your schedule allows, cook dinner at home and sit down as a family. Studies have shown that eating dinner together at least three times a week can increase healthy eating among children since you control the menu. Whether you use a delivery meal kit service or stop by the grocery store, be sure to add colorful vegetables to your meal, even if you live with picky eaters.

    A National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded research study found that kids have to taste a new food nine to 15 times before they begin to like it. It recommended not pressuring your picky eaters and giving them chances to try the food over time. Enjoying a relaxed meal as a family can help them develop healthier eating habits, too, said the lead researcher and pediatrician Dr. Julie Lumeng.

  • Stock up on smart snacks. Every grocery store trip, stock your pantry with nutritious and whole-grain snacks (PDF, 835KB) for your kids to munch on. Easy-to-access snacks like cut-up veggies, fruits, trail mix, and even cheese can help curb junk food consumption. This promotes body positivity and good nutrition. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests introducing new foods gradually but persistently, to prevent complaints. You can even let them pick their own healthy snacks.

  • Set sleep schedules. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), sleep directly impacts mental and physical developments in children. NSF researchers have observed school-aged children often resist going to bed due to screen time close to bedtime, leading to fewer quality sleep hours. To keep your child’s screen time to a minimum, make the bedroom tech-free so that they can better relax and stick to a regular sleep schedule to make sure they get the needed eight to 10 hours of sleep.

We get it. It can be tricky convincing kids to put down the video games and get outside, choose baby carrots over chips, and go to bed at a reasonable time. Making a healthy lifestyle a family event can make it a lot easier and, as a bonus, it brings the family together to work toward a common goal.

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