Healthy Lifestyles and Behavior Need to Start in Childhood

Sandy Tschosik, RN
St.  Alexius Community Health Services Coordinator

Healthy Lifestyles and Behavior Need to Start in ChildhoodFor many parents, eating out or going through the drive-through for supper has become the norm. Today, the number of children, youth and adults in our nation who are overweight or obese is alarmingly high. Obese children now are developing adult health problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to be obese adults, which increases their risks for developing cardiovascular disease.

What can we do to protect our children and reduce these health risks? As parents or role models, we can start by examining our own lifestyle and behaviors.  Parents and caregivers are the most important influence on children.  Here are some tips from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):

  1. Set a good example: “Couch potatoes breed tater tots.”  Eat better and become more active as a family. If your children see you eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods for meals and snacks, they most likely will too. The same holds true for physical activity. Limit TV and computer screen time and get moving as a family. Play, swim, bike or hike.
  2. Avoid oversized portions:   A serving size is not equivalent to a portion.
  3. Make your kid’s plate great!  Make half your child’s plate fruits and vegetables. Kids love to dip their food. Dip vegetables in a healthy dip, such as humus. Offer fresh, frozen, dried or canned fruit more than juice. Dip fruit in low fat yogurt or peanut butter. Choose red, orange and dark green veggies and a variety of colorful fruits.
  4. Go for grains: Offer whole grain foods such as whole wheat breads, pasta, tortillas or brown rice.
  5. When it comes to protein go lean: Offer lean cuts of meat, seafood and skinless poultry. Bake, grill or broil versus frying. Protein also can be found in eggs, beans, soy products and nuts.
  6. Don’t forget dairy: Dairy products are a good source of calcium.  Calcium is needed to develop strong and healthy bones. Low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese are good choices.
  7. Cut back on sweets, desserts, and sip smarter:  Sweets and desserts are high in calories, sugar, cholesterol and fat. Fruit, like baked pears and apples or frozen yogurt, can be dessert.  Soda, energy drinks and sport drinks contain a lot of sugar. Water, 100% fruit juice and low fat / fat free milk are healthier choices.
  8. Get creative and have fun in the kitchen: Get your children involved in preparing healthy meals.  Use cookie cutters to create fun shapes. Create funny faces on English muffins with raisins, and cut up fruit. Make fruit kebabs, or make bugs on a log by covering apple slices or celery with peanut butter and adding pieces of dried fruits like raisons, cranberries etc. Challenge your child to eat diced fruit with chop sticks. Spell words with pretzel sticks.
  9. Don’t use food as a reward: Reward good behavior with stickers… or better yet hugs, kisses and your time and attention.

Make a family commitment to eat healthier and be active. Your children will thank you.

For more healthy tips, go to ChooseMyPlate.gov.