With children spending sedentary hours on the computer or in front of the TV and having easy access to junk food and fast food, it is no wonder that obesity and diabetes have become a childhood health concern. You, however, can show them how to be active and eat healthfully so they don't develop chronic health conditions that can lead to heart disease.
Despite busy schedules, make it a priority to enjoy a healthy sit-down family meal every day. You'll be teaching your children that on-the-go – often unhealthy – eating doesn't have to be the norm. Plus it gives your family the benefit of quality time together – and the opportunity to explain heart-healthy living.
Your children will be more likely to exercise if you exercise, too. Especially if you find fun family activities that don't feel like "exercise." Play tag or hide and seek, shoot hoops or play catch, walk the dog, or set up swimming pool games to get everyone moving. Make physical activity more like play – and aim to play every day.
Both adults and children tend to be connected to the computer or tube for hours every day. This can lead to mindless snacking, which coupled with being mostly sedentary, can result in weight gain and other weight-related health problems.
Another way to create quality family time is by getting your kids in the kitchen. Get them involved in planning the week's menu, shopping for groceries, and preparing the family meals. Along the way, you can teach them about healthier food choices, how to read labels, and portion control. By doing so, you'll be raising kids who grow up into adults that like to cook and cook healthy meals.
As tempting as it is to give your straight-A student a scoop of ice cream or candy bar for their report card, you are setting up a bad habit of associating rewards with food. Instead, take your kids to their favorite movie, give them an extra hour with their friends, or some other non-food recognition of their accomplishments.
Eating on the go is often the only convenient option for a meal. But you can make healthy choices even in the drive-thru. Before you are rushed out the door, take time to download the nutrition facts from the fast food restaurants you sometimes visit. Plan out healthy choices – like salads, skinless (and unfried) chicken sandwiches, or the smallest size of burger – that you and your family can order.
Whether it be snack time or meal time, include fruits and vegetables. By making produce an important part of your family's diet, your kids will grow up with fruits and vegetables being the norm rather than the dreaded exception that they eschew as adults.
Because of restaurants, fast-food joints, and food manufacturer's super-sizing food portions and packaging, it is even more paramount for you to learn portion sizes so you can teach your children to be portion savvy, too. In addition, teach your children to read labels on packaging to help them understand that one bag or box does not necessarily mean one serving.
If you need guidance creating a heart-healthy diet plan for your family, let a registered dietician or nutritionist or your doctor help you. They can be especially helpful if you or someone in your family has a health condition with special nutritional needs.
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