Sometimes, trying to get your little one to make healthy choices can feel like a chore. The choices they make now can impact their future health, though.
According to the CDC, the prevalence of obesity for children and adolescents is 18.5%. Obesity impacts 13.7 million children in the country. In time, obesity can lead to future health concerns, including diabetes.
It’s understandable if you have a busy schedule. Still, it helps to recognize the benefits of encouraging healthy habits for kids. For example, a healthy diet can help stabilize your child’s energy.
A nutritious diet can also improve their mood, strengthen their mind, and help prevent mental health conditions. That includes depression, anxiety, and ADHD.
With these tips, you can help your child develop healthy habits that can lead them to a happier, healthier future.
Set your child up for long-term success with these 15 tips!
1. Eat Breakfast
First, make sure your child maintains a balanced diet that includes protein. The protein will help them stay fuller longer. That way, they won’t feel the need to snack throughout the day.
A protein-based diet can also help teenagers lose weight.
Enforce the importance of a balanced breakfast at home. If your family is always in a rush in the morning, prepare an easy to-go breakfast at night. For example, try preparing:
- Hard-boiled eggs, toast, and an apple
- Peanut butter on toast
- Greek yogurt
- An egg sandwich on whole-wheat bread
You can also add a little fruit to their breakfast. Fruit contains natural sugars, which your child can burn off throughout the day.
Helping your child establish the habit of eating a healthy breakfast now will help them keep the habit as they grow older.
Children who eat breakfast tend to have better memories and more stable energy levels. Your child can maintain focus during the school day and boost their test scores.
During the weekend, take the time to eat breakfast as a family. Bringing the family together for a meal will help reinforce the habit.
2. Choose Healthier Snacks
Many of us develop a habit of grabbing a bag of chips whenever we want a snack. However, chips and cookies lack the nutrients your child needs for development. These snacks are usually low in nutrients and high in calories.
Instead of chips or cookies, make sure to keep your cupboards stocked with healthy snacks. For example:
- Unsweetened yogurt
- Unsalted nuts
- Air-popped popcorn
Make these healthy snacks easy for your child to grab and eat on their own. When healthy options are more accessible, your child is more likely to reach for them.
Try to keep snack portions small, especially for smaller children. Avoid ruining their appetite before dinner with too many snacks, too. If it’s close to dinnertime, let your child taste some of the vegetables you’re cooking with.
Don’t make a habit of giving an agitated child a cookie to calm them down. Instead, choose snacks that are rich in protein and fiber. These snacks will help your child remain fuller, longer.
Let your child have a say in which snacks they’re eating, too.
You can also use snacktime as a chance to encourage your child to explore new snacks. Give them a choice to try something new, such as an unfamiliar fruit or vegetable. If they’re not interested, don’t push them.
3. Drink Water
Nearly 80% of working Americans don’t drink enough water. Teaching your child to prioritize their hydration now can help them maintain that healthy habit in the future.
Make sure water is the choice drink at every meal. Try to save juice and sweeter drinks for special occasions.
Fruit does contain valuable nutrients. It can also give an active, growing child an energy boost. However, sugar-sweetened drinks shouldn’t become a habit.
Instead, encourage your child to drink water whenever they’re feeling thirsty.
Water can keep them full for a while. It will also improve their eye, hair and skin health.
4. Grow Your Own
Growing your vegetables is a fun way to get your child excited about healthy foods. Consider making your vegetable and herb garden at home. Take the time to teach your child where their food comes from.
This can help you encourage them to eat a wider variety of food.
Children are more likely to eat broccoli if they helped you plant and pick it. If you can’t maintain a garden, consider starting with a small window box.
5. Eat as a Family
Mealtimes aren’t solely a chance to eat. Taking the time to sit as a family can help you bring the family together around a delicious, home-cooked meal.
Eating meals together as a family can provide comfort. Knowing the entire family is there will provide stability for your children. This, in turn, can help enhance their appetite.
They’ll learn to anticipate mealtime as a family.
Maintaining these healthy habits for kids will also give you a chance to catch up with your child’s life. Gather as a family and take turns talking about your day.
Make it a rule that there are no phones at the table. That way, you can focus on each other instead.
Social interaction is important, especially while your child is so young. Talking to a parent can help a child relieve stress. It can also boost their mood and self-esteem.
Use mealtime as a chance to get to know your child and identify problems in their life.
You can also use meals to teach by example. Encouraging healthy habits for kids is as easy as following those habits yourself. Let your child see you eat smaller portions of healthier foods.
Eating as a family will help you monitor your child’s eating habits, too. What foods are they eating? What nutrients are they missing?
By eating as a family, you can make sure your child follows healthy habits and gets the social interaction they need.
6. Make It Fun
Encourage your child to become a more adventurous eater by teaching them how to cook. Give them their own apron, have them wash their hands, and turn them into your very own sous chef.
Allow your child to help in the kitchen. As they grow older and more confident, let them cook dinner once a week. You can even enroll your child in cooking classes during the summer.
Make cooking fun for your child. By teaching them how to cook, they’ll learn the importance of healthy habits at a young age.
Remember, they’ll carry these healthy habits for young kids well into their future.
7. Slow Down
Eating slowly is an effective way to improve weight control. Remind your child that it can take their bodies almost 20 minutes before it realizes it’s full. This can help them avoid taking unnecessary second portions when they’re already satisfied.
Teach your child how to slow down and chew their food properly.
This can help them recognize how to enjoy their food, too.
8. Get Creative
Are you making the same foods every night? Mix it up! Pull out a few cookbooks and let your child choose the next meal you’ll make together.
Get creative with the foods you eat and how you plate them. Having a hand in preparing and plating will make your child more excited to eat.
While you explore new recipes, take the time to focus on your child’s overall diet. Try to avoid processed, packaged foods.
You can also get creative by disguising the taste of healthier foods. Consider mixing vegetables into a beef stew of carrots into mashed potatoes.
Cooking more meals at home can help you maintain control over your child’s healthy choices, too.
9. Know When to Stop
Children are born with the natural ability to stop eating when they’re full. However, it’s sometimes hard for parents to tell if their child has eaten enough of the right foods.
Teach your child how to listen to their tummies. Ask them if they’re full—and teach them how to ask that question to themselves.
Teaching your child how to recognize when they’re full will help them learn how to avoid overeating.
If you’re worried your child isn’t eating enough, don’t push. Instead, google “pediatrician near me” and find a doctor to discuss your child’s dietary needs.
10. Limit Sugar
Simple or refined carbohydrates are sugared or refined grains that lack fiber and nutrients. These include:
- Pizza dough
- White bread
- White flour
- White rice
- Many breakfast cereals
Simple or refined sugars cause blood sugar levels to spike. They can also lead to mood and energy fluctuations.
Complex carbs, on the other hand, are high in nutrients and fiber. They also provide longer-lasting energy. These include:
- Brown rice
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Whole wheat or multigrain bread
- High-fiber cereals
Try to limit how much sugar your child consumes each day. The American Heart Association suggests limiting kids between 3 and 6 teaspoons of sugar a day.
First, try giving your favorite recipes a makeover. You can make many of your favorite recipes with less sugar or whole wheat alternatives.
Try to cut sugary drinks from your child’s diet. Instead, add a splash of fruit juice to sparkling water or make a healthy smoothie. You can also make your own popsicles or frozen fruit snacks at home.
Try not to ban sweets entirely. This can cause cravings or eventual overindulging.
Cutting unnecessary sugars from your child’s diet will reduce their risk of anxiety and depression.
11. Get Smart About Fat
When developing healthy habits for kids, don’t forget the fat.
Children need healthy fats in their diets. Healthy fats will help your child stay full. They also provide a mood boost and help children concentrate better.
Try providing your child with a balance of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated fats include:
- Olive oil
Polyunsaturated fats include Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fatty fish such as:
Adding these healthy fats to your child’s diet will help them get the nutrients they need during their developmental years.
12. Make Fruits & Veggies Appealing
Try to make healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables, more appealing to your picky eaters.
First, limit access to unhealthy sweets and salty snacks in your home. It’s easier to convince your child to eat an apple if there aren’t cookies in the cupboard.
Next, let your child pick the produce they eat. Take them with you on your next trip to the groceries, but remind them you’re focused on buying healthy foods today.
You can also sneak vegetables into other foods. For example, try shredding or grating vegetables into stews and sauces. You can also make a cauliflower mac and cheese or carrot muffins.
13. Limit TV Time
Many people feel the need to snack in front of the TV. Too much TV time can lead to:
- Irregular sleep schedules
- Shorter duration of sleep
- Behavioral problems
- Loss of social skills
- Less time for play
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests limiting screen time to one hour a day for children between 2 and 5 years of age.
You should also consider what your children are watching. To ensure quality screen time:
- Review the programs, games, and apps your child enjoys viewing or playing
- Seek interactive options that will engage your child
- Use parental controls to block and filter content
- Ask your child what programs they watch during the day
- Watch programs with your children
For older children, try to set reasonable screen time. You might want to create tech-free zones or times, especially during mealtime.
14. Encourage Picky Eaters
If your child is a picky eater, give them a few choices for their next snack. Let your child feel independent and in control of what they eat.
However, you’ll want to avoid mac and cheese for dinner every night. Give your child guidelines, such as a protein, vegetable, and carb with each meal. Maintaining these guidelines will help them make smarter, healthier choices.
15. Lead By Example
As your family begins using these healthy habits for kids, make sure to lead by example.
Children, especially those at a young age, tend to mimic adults. Show them that you’re making healthier choices and they will too!
15 Healthy Habits for Kids: Keeping Your Kids Happy & Healthy
Make life happier and healthier for the entire family. With these 15 healthy habits for kids, you can improve your child’s health in the present for a healthier life in the future.
If you’re looking for more ways to help your family’s health, browse the rest of our blog!