10 Strategies for Raising Healthy Children

10 Strategies for Raising Healthy Children

I had the pleasure of presenting at the Vancouver Wellness Show. I laid out what I believe to be the most effective ways to get children active and healthy.

They are as follows;

  1. Be an Active Role Model
    • "Don't worry that children never listen to you. Worry that they are always watching you.“ - Robert Fulghum
    • It would be folly to think we can have active and healthy children if we aren’t making this a priority ourselves.
    • If you aren't active, work on becoming so. Children will watch you and emulate you.
  2. Make it FUN-Based
    • Don't "force" physical activity or make it a "have to". Make it about enjoyment, and zest for life.
    • Focus on the effort, the journey – teach them how to relish the process.
    • Incorporate active games into your daily routine.
      • Follow the leader.
      • Simon says.
      • Tag variations.
  3. Start Early - VERY Early
    • Stay active when your child is in the womb - play with your child from the day they are born.
    • Children have both critical and sensitive periods of development when activity and play are essential.
    • It's never too late!
  4. Let them be Part of the Process
    • Children feel empowered when they feel like they are included.
    • When possible include them in:
      • Shopping decisions - ask them to help pick healthy foods.
      • Meal preparation - let them stir/mix/add to meals.
      • Taste testing.
      • Outdoor active work.
  5. Educate Them
    • There is a very distinct difference between educating and preaching.
    • Use every opportunity you can to educate such as:
      • Which foods are nutritious and which one's are not.
      • Where food comes from.
      • Why exercise is good for us.
    • Talk about positive body image.
    • Part of educating them is planting seeds to get them to think for themselves and empower them to make good decisions.
  6. Practice The “5,2,1,0 Method”
    • 5 Servings of vegetables and fruits/day.
    • 2 Hours or less of screen time.
    • 1 Hour of physical activity per day (minimum).
    • 0 Sweetened beverages.
    • (Source: Childhood Obesity Foundation)
  7. Pack a Healthy Lunch Daily
    • Ensures that they will eat healthily while at school.
    • Not only for school days!.
    • Even if they are out for extended periods.
    • Healthy lunches might include:
      • sandwiches on whole grain bread, pita, wrap.
      • Hearty soup/chilies.
      • Sushi.
      • And/or lots of small snacks:
        • Cheese/whole grain crackers.
        • Trail mix (nut alternatives).
        • Plain yogurt with fruit.
        • Veggies.
        • Hard boiled eggs.
  8. Maximize Indoor Time
    • Commercial challenge - see how many push-ups/jumping jacks you can do or how long you can hold a plank.
    • Active video games (Wii Fit).
    • Home obstacle course.
    • Twister.
    • Pillow fight.
    • Flip the bear.
    • Agility challenge.
  9. Eat Meals at Home
    • Benefits of eating meals at home:
      • Generally healthier
      • Promotes family communication and bonding
    • Model good manners (see #1).
    • Prevents destructive behaviours.
    • Promotes better academic performance.
  10. Relax! Don't Go Overboard with Healthy Living
    • Don't be a "Food Nazi".
    • It's ok to indulge in less-than healthy foods.
    • Try not to "ban" or "demonize" any one food.
    • Insisting on only organic foods.
    • Over-scheduling sporting activities.
    • Playing only one sport excessively.
    • Forcing kids to finish everything on their plate.

Final Thoughts

It takes a proverbial village to raise a healthy child. It starts in the home but schools, all levels of government and food corporations need to band together to reverse the childhood obesity trend. For questions about how to get your child or family fit, please contact me.