You are your child's best role model for healthy living, so give your kids the gift of a healthier summer with these simple and fun activities to encourage healthy eating and fitness.
Create a "Bucket List" of Fruits and Veggies
Get the kids involved by taking them to the local farm, produce or grocery store, or if you're pressed for time, search the web and create a "bucket list" of fruits and vegetables to try each week.
Fun and laid back is the approach recommended by Doylestown Health nutrition expert Kristin Morrow, RD, LDN, CDE, who says it's best to introduce new foods in a non-threatening way with the entire family involved, "For example, take turns at dinner, so each family member tries the new food and gives an opinion about how the food tasted or what the food felt like in his or her mouth."
If you're feeling super enthusiastic, have each family member rate the food from 1 to 5, with five as best, and use the results to create a "favorite five" for each person, or for the entire family.
Run Around Outside With Your Kids
Active parents are great role models. Running around with your kids, playing tag, having relay races or creating a simple obstacle course is a fun way to get the minimum one hour of daily physical activity the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends. Warmer weather presents a wonderful opportunity to make outdoor memories that will last a lifetime.
Put Out a Pitcher of Ice Water
Make it easy for kids to grab a cold drink of water on a hot day by always having a pitcher or cooler of water available, especially when the kids are playing outside. Water helps to keep the body and cells working properly and should be the primary source of hydration. When kids drink more water, they're less likely to fill up on sugary drinks with empty calories. Sports beverages should be limited, as they often contain extra sugar and salt which is not necessary — except for long periods of exhausting activity when you need a convenient source of mineral replacement, energy, and hydration for your kids, notes Kristin.
Plant a Garden
Whether you plan a large garden or plant in small containers, growing fresh vegetables as a family is a terrific way to engage kids and encourage healthy eating. "When kids have a part in creating a garden, they're more likely to eat the vegetables," says Kristin, who offers a few simple, spring and summer garden ideas:
Spring Garden (April through early June)
- Grow pea plants using a simple trellis (think a tripod of sticks)
- Green, leafy lettuce, spinach and arugula (great, because kids are often receptive to salad)
Summer Garden (Planting around Mother's Day and picking the last tomatoes in mid-September)
- Grape and cherry tomatoes
Plan And Pack Healthy Meals And Snacks
Life is busy, so it's no wonder we grab convenience foods on the run. Simple changes can make a difference, so stock your pantry with quick, nutritious and delicious options. When you have what you need and plan ahead, you're much less likely to grab foods that are high in fat and sugar. Cut vegetables ahead and keep them in the fridge where kids can easily grab them. Put veggie and fruit trays out in a high traffic area such as the kitchen to encourage healthy snacking.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture My Plate guidelines suggest a healthy eating style in which half of your plate consists of fruits and vegetables. Learn more about My Plate.
Why You Should Care about Preventing Childhood Obesity
Approximately one in three children in America are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Childhood obesity takes both a physical and emotional toll and can lead to type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, orthopedic problems and adult obesity. Small changes you make this summer can add up and make a big difference in your child's health, now and in the future.
About Nutrition Counseling of Doylestown Hospital
Doylestown Health's Nutrition Counseling offers personalized nutrition plans for those with a current medical condition or those interested in preventive health and weight loss. Doylestown Health Nutrition Services specializes in nutrition therapy for diabetes, weight management, cardiovascular disease, digestive and eating disorders, pregnancy, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.
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