A Guide to Instilling Healthy Habits In Kids

A Guide to Instilling Healthy Habits In Kids

It’s never too early to start and guide kids on the path of a healthy lifestyle. Lead them by example and teach your little ones the importance of nutrition and eating healthy, all while giving them the freedom to make healthy lifestyle choices. It’s pivotal to start them young and set them up for success in many aspects of their health. There shouldn’t be much ado about teaching your children about healthy choices. It’s as easy as making tweaks to your routine and making healthy decision making as a family.

Incorporate Adequate Fibre Servings Into Their Diet

A growing child needs a balanced and nutritious meal to give them energy and support their growth. Fiber-rich foods, the crown jewel nutrient conveys lasting energy which fuels fun days. As an adult, you know the importance of fiber, especially for kids to pass ‘movement’. Without fibre in the system, the stomach takes more effort to properly digest the food you eat. A child’s body (similar to adults) needs adequate fluids and fiber to support healthy digestion. So you can imagine what happens when the digestive system doesn’t obtain enough fiber and fluid — constipation and discomfort. Beyond promoting healthy digestion, fiber-rich fare is filling, which keeps kids satiated after a meal and also prevents overeating. Kids’ fiber needs vary according to their age group. The general rule of thumb is to add five grams to your kid's age. For example, a three-year-old would need eight grams of dietary fiber daily. Granted, most of us as adults neglect reading the nutrition label for our favourite packaged food, but you can make it a habit and teach your children to identify the amount of fiber stated on the nutrition label. Fortunately, many snacks that kids love are packed with fiber so your job is made easier. Other sources of fiber that are also palatable include berries, nuts, apples, beans, oranges, pears, peas and whole grains. Since fiber is naturally abundant in fruits and veggies, it also means that it’s rich in vitamins, minerals and beneficial compounds such as antioxidants. So, make the effort to explain to your kids the importance of fiber and how good it can taste. Take it a notch higher by sneaking in extra fiber when you’re baking. You can do this by switching out regular flour for wheat flour or add more fruits and veggies into sauces and other dishes. This will go a long way to meeting your child’s fibre requirements. Another method in ensuring adequate fiber intake is to provide five age-appropriate servings of fruits and veggies daily. When kids are good at consuming their fruits and veggies and other whole fiber-rich foods daily, you can stop measuring the grammage.

Make Healthy Snacks Together

Sometimes the trick to getting your kids to eat healthy is by making it a fun activity. Something about being part of the process can make children that much more interested in trying something new. Keep the recipe simple for kids in the preschool age while older kids can manage a more advanced recipe with parental supervision of course. By making their own snack, children learn planning and decision-making skills, all while purveying delicious and healthy snacks for the family. Simple ideas include baked kale chips, a 2-ingredient pancake with bananas and yoghurt topped with blueberries to name a few.

Volunteer and Help Your Community

Studies suggest that children when children grow up helping others, they develop empathy and acquire self-satisfaction, meaningfulness and happiness.There are many ways to involve your kids in volunteering efforts and they are as follows:

- Help dole out or donate food at your neighbourhood food bank or homeless shelter.

- Reduce the number of toys and stuffed animals and donate them to an orphanage or thrift store.

- Participate in a food or clothing drive to help needy families in your community.

- Create simple but meaningful cards to send to senior centres.

- Write thank you notes and give something small for police and firefighters, doctors and nurses as well as teachers to show appreciation.

- Help an elderly or disabled neighbour tidy their yard or garden, run errands for them, do some chores or cook them a wholesome, homemade meal.

Make Cooking a Family Activity

With the advent of food delivery platforms which make food easily accessible, many turn to ordering in or eating out. Not only can this burn a hole in the pocket, but cooking at home is the healthier option which also models healthy eating habits for your children. Involve the kids in the process like menu planning, buying the ingredients, preparing the mise en place and the actual cooking. Cooking can be an educational experience for the little ones, teaching them how to measure and cook. Having them involved in the process keeps kids interested in the outcome. Make eating together family time, where you can talk about the day’s events and model nutritious eating habits that your kids can follow.

Set Family Fitness Goals

It’s easy to put fitness on the back burner especially for busy, working parents. Setting family fitness goals is a great way for both you and your kids to get active. Moreover, kids who practice a healthy lifestyle have a greater chance of avoiding serious health issues like obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Add in healthy competition to make it fun for the whole family. By making fitness a priority, you’re establishing a foundation of healthy habits that will be embedded in your kids. Make fitness a family affair with the following ideas:

  • Print out and post each family member’s goals on the fridge to cheer each other on.
  • Acknowledge and grant non-food related rewards to those who achieved their goal.
  • Use pedometers, health trackers and apps to see everyone’s steps and accomplishments for the week.
  • Sign up for an event and train as a family for a “fun run” or a 5km event.
  • Head outdoors like the park for some fresh air and maybe bike riding, hiking or rollerblading.
  • If you have a backyard, create various fitness challenges like push ups and sit ups.
  • Family fitness time can include fun activities like planks, jumping jacks, jumping rope and lifting small hand weights to keep spirits high.

Set a Healthy Bedtime Routine

Although predictability can be quite mundane, children, on the other hand, thrive on repetition and routine, which works in your favour when it comes to bedtime. Practising a predictable time to sleep ensures that your kids get the sufficient sleep they need. In fact, studies have shown that adequate sleep can have several positive impacts for children and teens in the aspects of attention, memory and behaviour. When kids get enough sleep, their mental and physical health shows improvement.

Teach Kids How to Prioritise Their Mental Health

The notion that children too experience ups and downs may seem normal for some, but that’s exactly why it’s integral to help children build a foundation of good mental health to guide them through times of worry or fear. Children should be made to comprehend the importance of taking care of their minds and bodies equally and that feelings of worry, anxiety, sadness, and fear are all part of the journey. Make it clear to your children that they can always come to you if there’s something troubling them. A balanced emotional wellness instills positive thinking in kids, pertaining to themselves and others, which as a result, would help kids have happier relationships. This also means they’d be open and interested in new adventures and allows them to thrive in the classroom setting too. As a parent, you can help your child recognise changes in their social and emotional wellbeing, as well as trust you with their feelings. Words of affirmation, support and praise from a loved one plays a big role in helping them feel better. Seeing that health is an interconnected puzzle, practising a healthy diet and exercise are some of the best ways to help maintain mental health, just like in adults.

Help Foster a Healthy Relationship with Electronic Devices

Technological advancements have given birth to various incredible digital devices and are basically ubiquitous and kids have easy access to them. In fact, what’s rather remarkable about the younger generation is their tech savviness which are oftentimes better than adults. While phones, tablets and other devices are unavoidable, what you can do as a parent is to teach your children to use these devices. For instance, parents can ensure their kid’s online safety by being privy to the device passwords and having cell-phone supervision. There should be open communication; help your child understand what’s appropriate for them to read, listen to and watch on the Internet. Teach them to be wary of their personal information online and how to be mindful of spending time in real life as it is the digital realm. It’s time spent off screen that cultivates imaginative thinking and active play. By implementing the afore-mentioned habits, you can avoid being succumbed to the pitfalls of the net like reduced sleep quality, unhealthy weight and poor social skills. Lead by example and show your kids that you too enjoy time away from the phone screen. This helps  your kids foster a healthy relationship with electronic devices.