Create Healthy Habits during Childhood
It’s never too early to develop healthy habits. In fact, the sooner kids learn to make good choices, the easier it is for them to carry those practices into adulthood.
Here are some ideas to get your keiki headed in the right direction.
- Eat the rainbow. Kids love color, so what better way to get them more interested in eating their fruits and veggies than by filling their plates with an assortment of red, green, yellow, orange and purple produce. Not every meal needs to be technicolored, but including colorful foods at mealtimes regularly gets kids used to trying new things.
- Wash, wash, wash your hands. When done correctly, washing hands can reduce the number of colds, flu and other infections children get by 50 percent! Stop the spread of nasty germs with this simple strategy: Wet your hands with warm water, and then get a squirt of soap. Sing your ABCs while you scrub, scrub, scrub. Now rinse away all the suds. Dry your hands and you’re done!
- Fuel up with breakfast. Not only does a well-balanced breakfast give little brains and bodies the boost they need to power through the day, it also helps promote healthy weight maintenance and reduces the risk your child will develop chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease in the future.
- Ban juice boxes. It might be tempting to give a toddler fruit juice; what harm could it do? But juice contains sugar, which can lead to weight gain and tooth decay if consumed in excess. Never give babies or toddlers a bottle of juice to drink throughout the day. Instead, go with good ‘ole H2O.
- “I like to move it, move it!” Have you ever watched children at the playground or park and noticed they will run, jump and climb until they tire themselves out? That love for movement is inherent but somehow gets lost as we age.
Help children find a physical activity they enjoy and can continue into their adult years. If they don’t take to traditional sports like soccer or baseball, encourage other forms of movement. Try swimming, martial arts, gymnastics, hula – when they find their passion, they’ll let you know.
Dr. Gina French, a pediatrician at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children, says built-in exercise is even better.
“Walk places together, always pick the farthest parking place in the lot and take the stairs when you can,” French advises. “Remember, you don’t have to spend money to get moving!”
- Limit screen time. That goes for all electronics, including TVs, iPads, computers and personal gaming systems.
The Mayo Clinic reports kids who spend more time watching TV are more likely to experience impaired school performance, behavioral difficulties, irregular sleep patterns and weight issues. Set a strict time limit of no more than two hours, maximum, of screen time each day. Monitor TV or computer usage by keeping these items out of kids’ bedrooms.
“Never, ever, ever let screens in the bedroom,” French stresses.
- Establish bedtime. Children need sleep to grow learn. Your child’s sleep schedule should be the same every day of the week, whether it’s a school night or not, as this consistency makes sure they’ve gotten enough rest to take on the day and allows them to fall asleep faster and easier at night.
Most important of all: Be a positive role model. Your mini-me really is just that, and kids will follow how their parents lead. By setting good examples at home – eating right, fitting in exercise, choosing reading over watching TV, not smoking – you send the message that good health is a way of life.
Published on: January 20, 2015