Health Tips for Families
Try a new food
As a family, try a new food each week, with no pressure to eat it all. After everyone has tried the food item, put it to a formal vote. If everyone enjoys it, add it to the regular menu. You can choose an exotic fruit or vegetable or an ethnic dish that you have never tried before. Many parents are shocked to find that their children enjoy foods such as veggie burgers or hummus with raw vegetables.
At least one night each week, serve a meatless meal. For delicious recipes and more information about the Meatless Monday movement, which already has launched in Britain, Brazil, Holland, Finland, Taiwan, and Canada, visit www.meatlessmonday.com.
Eat the rainbow
Help children to keep track of how they are doing with a goal of eating a fruit or vegetable from every major color group each week (red, orange-yellow, green, blue-purple, and white). Take a piece of paper and divide it into seven columns (one for each day of the week). Help your child mark the appropriate day with the colors of fruits and vegetables eaten that day. You can use markers, crayons, or colorful stickers.
Make activity part of everyone’s daily routine. Take a walk after dinner, take the stairs instead of the escalator at the mall, do not circle the parking lot looking for the space closest to the store’s entrance, or turn on the Wii™ when the weather is not good enough to play outside. You can find hundreds of different ways to work physical activity into everyone’s daily routine. Do not call it “exercise.” Think of it as just a normal part of living.
If every day were a holiday, these days would not seem special anymore. If you had a hot fudge sundae every day, you would eventually grow tired of eating them. Remind your children that a dessert or other goody is not something that they need to have every day, but that nothing is wrong with an occasional treat, as long as their overall diet is nutritious.
Focus on immediate and long-term benefits
During the “why” stage of childhood, many children focus on food—“Why do I have to drink my milk?” “Why do I need to eat my vegetables?” “Why do I have to eat anything other than macaroni and cheese ever again?” If you focus exclusively on long-term benefits, such as making your heart healthier for when you get older or preventing osteoporosis, children tend to believe that they do not really need to adopt these healthful behaviors right now, because they are so young—it can wait. It is better to combine the short term with the long term, for example—“You need to drink your milk to help you grow taller this year and so that you do not break bones as easily when you get older.”
Choose role models
Help your children find role models who strive to live a healthy lifestyle. Share articles that you find about famous people who have embraced healthy habits. Magazines such as Shape, Fitness, and Self often publish celebrity interviews with a positive message that children and teenagers might find motivational.
Give gifts that encourage physical activity
Make it your goal to choose active games or toys that promote activity for at least three fourths of the gifts you give.
Do not focus on food
Many holidays and other festive occasions mainly are celebrated with food, and you do not have total control over this. However, you can choose to make the food secondary to people and fun.
Cook and shop as a family
At a young age, children can help prepare meals in the kitchen, and assist parents in picking out good-tasting and nutritious foods at the supermarket.
Review Date 12/09