Healthy Habits for Your Children
With higher than ever percentages of children visiting medical practitioners to be treated for diseases, illnesses and allergies, we need to address some basic roots of causes to these challenges for them. Their minds and bodies so young, it is the optimum time to begin teaching them the important lessons for their life in how to truly take care of themselves, and health is the priority. After all, what they learn IS what they know. Following are some easy steps to integrate into your family’s daily routine to begin ingraining healthy habits.
1) To begin, let’s start with water. Every morning and throughout the day, introduce a new simple habit: Start with water. The average adult’s body consists of up to 70% water. It is necessary to survive. It is necessary in every function of our body. Some of these functions include regulating the temperature of the body, humidifying the air we breathe, and it helps organs assimilate the nutrients and expel the toxins and excess salts. It is a mainstay in optimum health of all of our cells, so we need water. And most of us do not replace the amount lost on a daily basis because we have not created the habit to do so. First thing in the morning when you wake up and your children come to the kitchen, get the habit of having at least one full glass of water. Throughout the day, have a glass prior to each meal and snack and then 1 or 2 before bedtime. The easy association is, if you are going to be putting something into your mouth, ensure you start with water. Try to work yourself up to the amount of 8 glasses each day.
2) Ensure fresh fruits and vegetables are always convenient and accessible to your children when it is time for a snack or meal. Make sure they learn that each time they eat, something from this valuable food group is to be included. As well, they need to be taught to wash off all fruits and vegetables prior to eating and learn about the poisons used on many crops we are exposed to in the markets. Teach them the value in buying organic, as our bodies do not get as much exposure to toxins which hinder and cripple our body systems and functions.
3) Plan meals together and get them to help with preparation by having a list of tasks that need to be done at each meal time and have them rotate the tasks. For example: table setting and cleaning, and meal choice and preparation. Have them plan a list of healthy meals for the week. If their meal is the one chosen for the night, have them help you prepare it and explain the process as you go and the nutritional content of each ingredient. Have them dish out the meal onto the plates with the correct portions for each food type. Teach them about cleanliness while preparing meals. And most importantly, ensure you praise them throughout. One of the greatest rewards with preparing a meal, is the enjoyment the nourishment can bring to others, their enjoyment of the flavours, as well as the appreciation for the effort it took to create it.
4) After they have chosen meals for the week, get them to create a grocery list to accommodate their menus and take them grocery shopping. Teach them about the nutritional content in the items they are needing by comparing them to other items with less nutritional value in the store (eg: fresh products used to make meals from scratch as opposed to canned products). Show them how to read food labels and the dangerous ingredients to avoid. Teach them the necessity of choosing organic, whole foods without additives, preservatives, genetically modified and hormone enhanced. Smaller delis and markets can offer more specialized healthier products sometimes and their owners will be more than happy to help in the teaching process.
5) Fear of new foods is practically universal among children. Encourage your child to try out small amounts of new foods at the beginning of a meal when he/she is hungry. Children have more taste buds than adults and the flavors in foods are heightened so be aware of this and appreciate it. There is a reason liver and onions is on the seniors menu selection and not the children’s section. It becomes an acquired taste as we lose our sensitivities to the harsh flavour of the liver. Offer the child small samples of new foods that adults are enjoying to stimulate the child’s natural curiosity. Never force or bribe your child to try a new food, as it almost always erases any preference the child would have developed for the food otherwise. If they don’t like the flavor today, this is okay. Appreciate their unique pallet but at the same time, realize they are developing a new pallet for new flavors. You should try again at a later date. It is recommended to try in a month. And try the item in a different manner, for example: they didn’t like tomatoes in a salad, chop them up and put them in a sandwich with other flavors to mask it slightly. Work them into this new flavour.
6) Use items other than food to reward good behaviour more often than not. Make a trip to the park or library rather than out for ice cream. When kids associate rewards with junk and unhealthy foods, it becomes all the more desirable to them. On the other hand, banning a child from eating a favourite food makes them yearn for it more, too. So keep minimal amounts of “junk” food, (maybe those special chocolates from Santa or Valentine’s Day), in an adult only place to be doled out as seen fit by the parent. They will come to learn each time they receive them, that they are in fact a special occasional treat with little to no nutritional content, which is why they don’t receive them on a regular basis.