Helping your kids to eat better and move more isn’t always easy. But teaching them about healthy eating and active living early in life will help them develop healthy behaviors that will last forever.
Help your kids follow these five steps to put them on the path to a healthier lifestyle.
1. Drink More Water and Less Sugary Drinks
Help your children switch from sugary drinks — like soda, sports and fruit drinks — to water and plain low-fat milk. Children who have too much sugar from sugary drinks are at risk for unhealthy weight gain and type-2 diabetes. Encourage your kids to drink water when they’re thirsty, and serve water with meals and snacks. You can also mix in cut up fruit or a small amount of 100% juice with water — just make sure your child doesn’t drink more than a half cup of juice a day.
2. Watch Less Screen Time
Help your kids cut down on screen time – screen time refers to time spent watching TV, using the computer, using a smartphone, or playing video games. Children should watch no more than 2 hours of screen time a day. However, most children ages 8-18 spend an average of 7.5 hours a day in front of a screen. When kids get too much screen time, they tend to not do as well in school and to have unhealthy weight gain. Remove TVs and other screens (especially at bed time) from your children’s room to make it a screen-free zone.
3. Be More Physically Active
Encourage your child to be more active every day. Children need at least 60 minute of physical activity each day. Being active can help your child do better in school, sleep better at night, reach a healthy weight, and grow strong bones and muscles. Go on walks together, and get your child’s heart rate up by dancing, riding bikes, jogging, hopscotch or jumping rope. You can break up your child’s activity into smaller periods of 10-20 minutes throughout the day.
4. Eat More Fruits and Veggies
Help your kids replace sugary, salty, fried and fast food with fruits and vegetables. Foods like sugary breakfast cereal, white bread, candy, potato chips and pre-packaged foods have lots of calories from fat and sugar, without any nutrients. Try to include fruits and veggies at all of your meals, and in your children’s snacks.
5. Get More and Better Quality Sleep
Children ages 2-5 should be getting at least 11 hours of sleep per day, and children ages 6-12 should be getting at least 10 hours per day. Children who don’t get enough sleep have a harder time paying attention at school. They are also more likely to have unhealthy weight gain. Sleeping in a quiet room lets their bodies and brains get the rest they need, and getting plenty of sleep helps kids do better in school. A regular bedtime routine can help kids get to sleep. Make sure to set a regular bedtime, and to create a relaxing bedtime routine that is the same every night (if possible). Remove any televisions from your child’s bedroom, and at bedtime remove other screens such as cell phones, computers and hand-held video games.
This information is provided by the Department of Public Health.