6 Tips for Growing Healthy Habits with Your Kids
By Kristie Hubbard, PhD, MPH, RD, Cyberchase Health Advisor
Plan ahead and track your progress. Key strategies for improving eating habits and increasing physical activity are planning ahead and tracking progress. Plan meals and snacks ahead of time and ask for your child’s input. Provide structured choices: Would you like broccoli or salad for your vegetable tonight? Ask your child to create a family dinner and physical activity calendar. Use a chart or graph to keep track of family meals and minutes spent being active (toward the goal of at least 60 minutes a day).
Make cooking a family event. Designate at least one day each week to prepare a family meal. Involve your child with the prep work – from meal planning based on the five MyPlate food groups all the way through clean-up. Spend some quality time with your child while teaching her about healthy eating. Depending on your child’s skill level, try these fun and child-friendly tasks:
- Creating the menu based on MyPlate
- Searching for recipes
- Writing the shopping list
- Cleaning fruits and vegetables
- Measuring and adding ingredients
Rethink your drink. Sugar-sweetened drinks are the top source of added sugar in children’s diets. Encourage your child to drink water instead of sugary drinks when she’s thirsty. Ask your child to guess how many teaspoons of sugar are in her favorite drinks. To build math skills, read the nutrition facts panel and help your child calculate how many teaspoons of sugar are in one serving of her favorite beverage, using the 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon conversion.
Chores count! Chores to do? Involve your child in active chores around the house and make it fun. Indoor chores like sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming can also get your child’s heart pumping. Make it upbeat by cleaning the house to your child’s favorite music playlist. Be sure to count these activities toward your child’s goal of at least 60 minutes each day!
Hit the “off” button. Hitting the “off” button on almost any electronic device is a surefire way for finding more family time for physical activity. Dance indoors, play catch outside, or do yoga after dinner. If your child doesn’t want to miss her favorite show, get up and moving while you watch! Have a contest and count how many jumping jacks she can do during the opening credits, a song or another scene.
cBe a food detective. A healthy meal starts with more vegetables and fruits and smaller portions of protein, grains, and dairy. Create an individualized meal plan for your child based on her age and activity level at choosemyplate.gov. Ask your child to estimate how many ounces of liquid fit in your glasses at home and how many cups of cereal fit in your bowls. If your usual dishes are leading to portion distortion, switch to smaller glasses, bowls and plates to help with portion control.