Healthy Choices for Kids
By Doug Nelson
Community Center Manager
It’s hard to get our kids to make good decisions when it comes to health. The best lesson I’ve learned over the years, as a parent, is that we need to lead by example. Good or bad, our kids develop many of their behaviors from what we say or do. My wife and I have always lead active lives, be it team sports, school or social activities, outdoor recreation, and so on. We believe these habits instill in our kids the benefits of being physically and socially active.
Our kids are currently home from school for the summer break and have a lot of free time. Fortunately, our older boys have summer jobs that keep them very busy. For the younger ones, we encourage them to consider the many options available to them to stay active and entertained. We’ve encouraged them to ride their bikes, take the dogs for walks, try an art or cooking project, read books, workout with mom or dad, and help in the yard or garden – anything to keep them from playing video games all day!!
Our kids have always been active in team or individual sports. Besides the obvious physical benefits, there are many life lessons learned. While participating in sports and recreational activities, our kids tend to make healthy and fulfilling food choices on their own. Yay! They also benefit greatly from the social, emotional, and structural values inherent in these activities. We recognize that the team sports environment can oftentimes be a big scary monster, so encourage individual sports and activities as an option. Your child can focus on individual goal setting and personal achievements, with all the same benefits.
Life is busy and can really disrupt our daily routines, but planning meals together with your kids and getting the whole family together for dinner has endless benefits. It will always seem like a challenge to get the kids to eat ample fruits and vegetables, but if they are included in the selection and preparation process, the chances increase considerably. When you go shopping, bring the kids along and let them pick the vegetables for the evening salad and the fresh fruit to go with.
The last point I’d like to make is to remember to be flexible. Let the kids “cheat” from time to time and have that ice cream Sunday night, or candy on movie night. If you try to completely restrict unhealthy snacks from their diet, they are more likely to overindulge when you’re not looking. Helping your kids to understand that they are in control takes some pressure off you, and likely leads to better lifetime decisions for them.