Teaching healthy behaviors at a young age is important since change becomes more difficult with age. Behaviors involving physical activity and nutrition are the cornerstone of preventing obesity in children and adolescents.
Parents can help their children establish a lifetime of healthy habits by:
Creating an Active Environment:
- Make time for the entire family to participate in regular physical activities that everyone enjoys. Try walking, bicycling or rollerblading.
- Plan special active family-outings such as a hiking or ski trip.
- Start an active neighborhood program. Join together with other families for group activities like touch-football, basketball, tag or hide-and-seek.
- Assign active chores to every family member such as vacuuming, washing the car or mowing the lawn. Rotate the schedule of chores to avoid boredom from routine.
- Enroll your child in a structured activity that he or she enjoys, such as tennis, gymnastics, martial arts, etc.
- Instill an interest in your child to try a new sport by joining a team at school or in your community.
- Limit the amount of TV watching.
Creating a Healthy Eating Environment
- Implement the same healthy diet (rich in fruits, vegetables and grains) for your entire family, not just for select individuals.
- Plan times when you prepare foods together. Children enjoy participating and can learn about healthy cooking and food preparation.
- Eat meals together at the dinner table at regular times.
- Avoid rushing to finish meals. Eating too quickly does not allow enough time to digest and to feel a sense of fullness.
- Avoid other activities during mealtimes such as watching TV.
- Avoid foods that are high in calories, fat or sugar.
- Have snack foods available that are low-calorie and nutritious. Fruit, vegetables and yogurt are some examples.
- Avoid serving portions that are too large.
- Avoid forcing your child to eat if he/she is not hungry. If your child shows atypical signs of not eating, consult a healthcare professional.
- Limit the frequency of fast-food eating to no more than once per week.
- Avoid using food as a reward or the lack of food as punishment.