When you become a mom, the most important task on your to-do list is keeping your baby healthy. You followed all of the guidelines for doctor’s visits and immunizations, you checked safety ratings on cribs and buckled your baby into a properly installed car seat. It’s a given that you fed your baby food that was nutritious. Perhaps you even made your own.
As your baby turns into a toddler and beyond, it is important to continue to make healthy choices for him or her. Even more important is to give your child the tools so he or she can learn to make healthy choices for him or herself. Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to raising a health-conscious kid.
Introduce Real Food Early
You introduced different foods every week or two when your child started on solids, so keep up that habit as your tot moves onto table food. The earlier you introduce your child to a wide variety of healthy options, the more likely he or she will enjoy a diverse assortment of foods.
Make Food Fun
Serving your child some baby carrots, apple slices and a cheese stick on the plate can get boring quickly. Make sure that your child’s plate contains a variety of colors—after all, we eat with our eyes first! Cut your child’s sandwiches into fun shapes or make a fruit kebab.
Get Them Involved
The easiest way to teach children to be healthy is to get them involved in meal preparation early and often. Bring your kid to the market with you and teach how to select the best vegetables and fruits. Once your child can read, show him or her how to read labels and make good choices. Have your child page through a cookbook and select a recipe that sounds intriguing, then let him or her help you make a shopping list, go shopping with you and assist you in preparing the meal.
Don’t Focus on Weight
It is important when talking about a healthy diet, that you stress the word healthy and not the word diet. Teach your child that we eat healthy foods to fuel our bodies, to become strong and to guard against illness. Don’t label foods as “good” or “bad” because that may increase your child’s desire for “bad” foods when you aren’t around. Don’t focus on weight loss as the goal unless it is doctor-recommended.
Limit Screen Time
Let’s face it. Sometimes it is easier to just stream another video when you are facing a mountain of laundry and dishes. In today’s world, children often become a slave to their devices. By enforcing strict limits on screen time, you can save your kid from becoming a couch potato. Once you develop rules for the family, write them down and post it out in the open. Parents need to stick to the agreement, too. It’s not fair to tell Bobby that he has to put the iPad down if you are glued to your phone.
Share Active Family Activities
A family that is active together will remain a healthy family for life. Rather than sitting down and watching TV after dinner, go for a walk around the neighborhood. Head to a park on weekends and have some fun on the playground or kick around the soccer ball. In colder weather, join an indoor pool, visit your local rock-climbing gym or trampoline park. Make a hike fun by participating in letterboxing—it’s a treasure hunt that is fun for all ages!
Be a Role Model
Kids will pick up your eating and exercise habits, so make sure you are walking the walk while you’re talking the talk. You can’t expect your child to choose a low-fat yogurt for a snack if you are eating cookies in the corner. Similarly, being active in front of your children from an early age will show them that you think being healthy is important. Moms are busy, but squeezing in a workout is essential for your own well-being and your family’s overall health.
How are you raising a health-conscious kid? Share your tips in the comments.