Healthy Kids… Every parent’s dream… And reality!!!
By: Tanya Rosen
Do you believe that dieting and exercise is only for adults? If you do, then your kids may be in trouble. It is our job as parents to help our children eat healthy, and get moving. Notice I substituted diet for eat healthy, and exercise for get moving. Although it’s essentially the same thing, when we put it that way, it makes it more “normal” for kids.
Here are some tips to make sure your children grow up with the right tools to be healthy!
*Lead by example.
I can not stress this enough. Very often a mother will come with her daughter for nutrition counseling, and it’s great that she’s seeking help for her overweight daughter. 9 out of 10 times the daughter will say something like “My mother doesn’t eat healthy”, or “My mother never exercises, why should I?” And you know what? She’s right! Just like you are careful to role model good language, and nice manners, this is no different. We can not expect our kids to lead a healthy lifestyle, if they see it being done otherwise by their parents.
*Educate, don’t preach.
You can start educating them at a very young age by simply explaining the foods on their plate. Tell them that the chicken nuggets on their plate are a protein, the French fries are a starch, and the cucumbers are a vegetable. This may seem silly and unnecessary when they are young, but they retain this information. My five and three year old constantly name the foods on their plates, and even discuss it with each other, and with me.
*The Nosh Sabotage
It starts in your nosh cabinets, and who bought it and put it there? You did. In my house, there is no nosh, no joke. We have snacks for school like pretzel bags, baby carrots, etc… . But no real nosh. You must think my kids are SO deprived, and feel so bad for them. Guess what? They don’t know the difference. Dessert in my house is fruits, and maybe ices, and they think that’s “so cool”. If you do not have kids yet or they are very young, you too can do this. If they are older, and are used to having nosh readily available, you may want to have a family meeting and see how you can reduce it together.
*The school sabotage.
I always say that if I had a lot of time, I would reform the way schools relate to food. Besides the mostly unhealthy lunches, they constantly have these “donut sales”, Rosh Chodesh Parties with fatty foods, and bake sales. For girls who are on diets, school, where they spend most their time, becomes such a hard place to be amongst these challenges. Even for girls who are not on diets, this way of eating is none conforming to a healthy lifestyle. As mothers, we should advocate for our schools to not necessarily get rid of these “traditions”, but to at least balance them out with regular physical activity, nutrition education, and healthier options.
*Overbearing will only backfire.
Avoid the temptation to overbear your child with statements like “ANOTHER piece of challah?” or “You really look like you’re gaining weight”. They will tune you out, and may even eat more in response to your nagging. I have a client that gained 100 + pounds within her first 6 months of marriage (no pregnancy). She blames it on her mother who was so overbearing when she was living at home, that she just “partied” away once she got married. So what’s the alternative? Educate them (see above), do activities together, watch that nosh cabinet which YOU stock up, and cook healthy. If you do need to make a comment, NEVER do it in front of ANYONE (not even family members).
*Typical meals, revisited.
Here are just some ideas for a healthier version of some typical meals.
–Macaroni and cheese– Use whole-wheat noodles, and low fat cheese. Try to add some vegetables like broccoli, or peppers.
–Hamburger and French fries– Try to substitute the burger for a veggie burger. If they won’t go for that, use extra lean ground meat or chicken. Bake your French fries that will cut out a lot of the fat. Add a side salad.
-Spaghetti and meatballs- Again, try to use whole-wheat spaghetti, and use extra lean meat, or even turkey. Instead of the store bought spaghetti sauces which have a lot of sugar, make your own sauce using tomato sauce.
As always, portion size is very important. Encourage your kids to wait a few minutes before deciding they are still hungry. In that time, they could try to drink water, have a salad, or play a family game at the dinner table. If they still feel hungry after that time, then give them a little more (You don’t have to give them another full portion). Even young children can be taught to distinguish between hunger, thirst, boredom, etc…
*MOVE, MOVE, MOVE.
There are opportunities for exercise everywhere! At home, you can turn on a CD and dance around the house. You can also play a game where each child has to think of a “move” and the rest of the kids (AND you) follow along. Cleaning is also exercise so encourage them to get up and clean up. An inexpensive piece of equipment which is great for kids (But not downstairs neighbors) is a jump rope. In your backyard, consider investing in a trampoline. Kids LOVE jumping on it, and its great exercise. Another idea is the hula hoop, also inexpensive, effective, and fun. Remember the no pressure rule, and remember to join in.