Raising healthy kids is an important part of laying the foundation for a future generation of healthy adults and healthy families. In theory raising healthy kids is pretty simple – eating a well balanced diet and getting plenty of activity, but in reality kids are less active than ever and filling up on convenience packaged foods that lack key nutrients.
Raising healthy kids is not difficult or complicated. Crazy restrictive diets and fancy recipes are not required for healthy eating and bootcamp like after school schedules are not required to keep the family active.
It really comes down to awareness.
Be Aware of Food Choices
What You Buy
As a parent or caregiver you control the grocery cart, the pantry, the fridge and freezer. You do the meal planning and the snack buying. If you are making healthy choices at the grocery store – lean proteins, foods rich in calcium, whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables – and leaving the packaged, processed foods on the store shelf, you are already ahead.
Be aware of what you buy and choose real food over processed – cheese over cheese slices, real fruit over fruit cups or leathers – for your fridge, pantry and freezer.
What You Offer
Once the kids reach a certain age they begin getting their own breakfast and even making their own school lunches. Teach them the value of good food, how it fuels their brain for better learning and their bodies for a more active day.
Be aware of what is offered for breakfast and teach the whole family that whole grain cereal, toast with cheddar or nut butter, an egg, oatmeal, granola, yogurt, berries and 100% orange juice are excellent options. Leave the sugary fruity o’s, marshmallowy chocolate things and pop up icing tarts on the grocery store shelves.
For lunch always focus on a serving of protein, even in kids school lunches. Nitrate free sandwich meat, kielbasa, cubed cheese, tuna, egg salad, beans or a hummus dip are all good protein sources. Fresh fruit, raw vegetables with dip, calcium from greek yogurt and fiber from whole grain banana bread or healthy homemade cookies round out a perfect lunch.
We have a world of convenient snack foods at our fingertips and while the packaging makes it sound healthy, the nutiritional value actually included in one serving is not that great. Plus we are teaching our kids to grab a package anytime they are hungry instead of making themselves real food. Fishy crackers, paws and fruit inspired gummies are not real food. Items such as almonds, hard boiled eggs, cheese and whole grain crackers, whole grain toast and peanut butter with banana, homemade granola bars, fruit and a yogurt dip are far batter choices than any wrapped grocery store processed snack.
Be Aware of Activity Levels
You don’t have to over schedule your kids to have them be active and in fact, many studies have shown that active free play is as important, if not more, than organized sports. Simply noticing that the kids have been parked in front of the TV for 2 hours and encouraging them outside to play or to the basement with a ball is usually enough to get their creative energy flowing.
As a family plan to get outside even in the winter – go for winter walks, skating, snow tubing or maybe indoor rock climbing or an open gym time at your local YMCA. In the summer make an activity jar so the kids never run out of ideas to stay active. Train together for some family 5kms and learn how to geocache and go treasure hunting at your favorite park or forest. Encourage the kids to find a sport they love and stay active yourself. Join a walking or running group, make active friends, join a gym or find a favortite yoga class.
Raising healthy kids is really about being a healthy family, making good choices at the grocery store and being aware of fitting in some active time together every week.