You want the best for your kids. As role models, parents and caregivers play a vital role in children’s health — teaching kids about healthful foods and making sure they get enough daily physical activity.
More than one third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese, according to recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics. But childhood obesity, which is associated with elevated risks of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, bone and joint problems and sleep apnea, amongst other adverse health effects, can usually be prevented.
“August, which is Kids Eat Right Month, is the perfect opportunity for families to focus on the importance of healthful eating and active lifestyles,” says Marina Chaparro, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
To help, Chaparro is offering parents and caregivers tips they can use to promote healthy habits.
• Shop smart. Get your children involved in selecting the food that will appear at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table. Be adventurous by picking a new food every week.
• Cook healthfully. Involve your children in the preparation of all meals with age-appropriate tasks. Getting your kids involved helps teach them about food, and may entice them to try new foods they helped prepare.
• Eat right. Breakfast is a critical meal. Make sure no one in the family skips it — including you. In the evening, sit down together as a family to enjoy dinner and the opportunity to share the day’s experiences with one another. Research indicates that families who eat together have a stronger bond, and children have higher self-confidence and perform better in school.
• Plan wisely. When planning meals, start by filling half the plate with fruits and vegetables, choosing low-sodium options. Make sure at least half the grains your family eats are whole grains. For beverages, choose water over sugary drinks, and opt for fat-free or low-fat milk. Also, be mindful of appropriate portion sizes.
• Get moving. After meals, get moving together. Aside from being a great way to spend time together, regular physical activity strengthens muscle and bones, helps to achieve a healthy body weight and supports learning. It can also help develop social skills and build self-esteem. Kids are encouraged to be active for 60 minutes per day.
• Consult an expert. A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) can deliver the highest level of nutrition counseling. Consider consulting an RDN to ensure your family is getting needed nutrients with a meal plan tailored to your family’s lifestyle and busy schedule. To search for an RDN in your area, to find more healthful eating tips, recipes and videos, and to learn more about Kids Eat Right Month, visit KidsEatRight.org.
As a parent, you are highly influential, and habits formed early on could potentially last a lifetime. Take steps to steer kids to a path of good health.