Interview with Jane Cook, RD, Nutrition Director at Providence Saint John’s Health Center and Kari Ikemoto, RD, CDEDietitian at Providence Saint John’s Health Center.
One of the most important things parents can do for their children is to teach them the importance of eating a healthy diet and maintaining an active lifestyle. The best way to do this is by setting a good example. If you choose healthy foods, get regular exercise and schedule regular check-ups with your doctors and dentist for yourself, your kids are more likely to follow your lead.
“Parents can help their kids eat well by modeling good nutrition habits. If kids don’t see mom and dad eating their vegetables, they probably won’t eat them either,” says Kari Ikemoto, RD. “Kids aren’t in charge of buying and preparing food for the family, so it has to start with the parents. It’s important to make sure they are serving their kids foods that will nourish the development of their mind and body. Food provides energy and nutrients to every organ, muscle, tissue and bone in our bodies – selecting healthy foods is essential for young, growing bodies. When you and your children eat nutritious meals together, everyone will feel better physically and emotionally.”
Starting healthy eating habits early in life is essential for proper brain development and preventing nutrient deficiencies. As kids grow, it’s important to continue their healthy diet by incorporating a wider selection of healthy foods. Mixing in a variety of protein, dark leafy greens and plenty of fruit can help kids perform better in school, boost self-esteem, encourage muscle development and physical activity, and boost their immune system.
Five Simple Ways to Help Your Child Live a Healthy Life
When your kids are healthy, they are happier, more focused and do better in school. Help them with these simple tips.
- Move with your kids
Kids need an average of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous playtime each day. So head to your neighborhood park and encourage physical fitness by showing them how fun exercise can be – try climbing on the jungle gym or crossing the monkey bars together.
- Hydrate mindfully
When your kids are thirsty, give them a tall glass of water instead of sodas or juices, which are usually loaded with sugar. If they participate in any sports or other physical activities, be sure they know it’s important to drink water to avoid dehydration. Not to mention, you can always make water more exciting by adding sliced fruit or herbs.
- Eat well
Children love to snack. Help them make healthy choices by keeping a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter for a delicious mom-approved snack. Like adults, children need plenty of lean meats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and a bit of carbohydrates to keep their bodies healthy.
- Eat together
Eating together as a family encourages healthy eating habits. Studies show family dinners decrease the number of fried foods and soda consumed and increase the intake of protein, calcium and some vitamins.
- Talk about it
Speak with your kids about the benefits of food, discussing what is healthy, what is not and why that’s the case. Learn together about what it takes to develop a healthy diet. By regularly initiating conversations with your family about food, your kids will be more likely to ask questions and develop healthy decision-making abilities of their own.
“Cooking food at home is a great first step in getting kids the nutrients they need. It doesn't need to look glamorous – it's just got to be realistic for your family,” says Jane Cook, RD. “Can you purchase local, organic produce weekly from the farmers market? If not, did you know frozen vegetables pack the same amount of nutrients for a fraction of the cost? If your kids don't touch broccoli without a sprinkle of cheese, add the cheese! Many parents face the challenge of picky eaters, but continuing to reintroduce foods in different ways is so important. If your child says they don’t like broccoli, you should try several different recipes before giving up. If they still really don’t like the broccoli after trying it steamed, roasted, in soup, raw, etc. then it’s best to give it a rest for a while and re-introduce it again later."
August is Kids Eat Right Month, so now is the perfect time to teach your children about the benefits of healthy eating habits. It’s also a great time to start planning nutritious back to school lunches. When children are involved in selecting healthy foods for their lunches, they are more likely to try new things, so take them to a local farmers market or grocery store and let them select their own fruits and vegetables.
How do you help your children maintain a healthy diet? For more on healthy eating, check out:
10 DIY popsicles that are as surprisingly healthy as they are delicious »
Kids’ menu calorie counts at restaurants often too high »
Think your water is healthy? Think again. »