All the experts tell us that kids are just like a sponge. From about the time they’re born until early adulthood, they absorb tons of knowledge. They learn from school, from their peers, from television, and even from video games. They also learn a great deal from the adults around them and many times, we simply don’t realize how much our kids pick up from us. They absorb the good stuff and the bad stuff.
Though parents usually seem to realize that they are responsible for teaching their kids all about life, they often neglect nutrition. Kids usually listen more than their parents think they do, so go ahead and tell them how important eating right is. Though it’s not a good idea to preach, gentle reminders can help them remain more conscious of what they’re eating each day.
Everyone needs certain foods in their diets, but this is even more important for children because their bodies and brains continue to develop until they are adults. Some foods are more important than others for a healthy heart, brain and body. These include:
- Proteins – Choose lean meats, seafood, poultry, beans, eggs, nuts and seeds.
- Fruits – When available choose fresh fruits of all kinds, such as apples, peaches, pears, kiwi, oranges, bananas and melons. If out of season, try frozen products.
- Vegetables – Many vegetables are highly nutritious, such as squash, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, onions, garlic and all green leafy vegetables. Even if the kids don’t like some of these, you can usually hide them in a casserole so they don’t realize what they’re eating.
- Whole grains-Choose whole wheat bread, cereals, brown or wild rice, quinoa, oatmeal and popcorn.
- Dairy-Encourage your kids to eat yogurt, cheese and other diary and drink plenty of low-fat milk and other dairy products.
Dealing with Picky Eaters
If you have an especially difficult child who just won’t eat anything that’s good for them, then accept the challenge and try to come up with creative ways to change their mind. For instance, play games where you hide certain fruits and veggies and whoever finds it, wins ten points and can pick anyone else in the game to eat the fruit. The big prize could be a trip to the park to play ball or extra time on the video games.
Talk About Staying Healthy
Though we all get taught about the Food Pyramid in school, this teaching should be reinforced at home. Talk about how nutritious certain foods are and how they help your body and brain to be healthier. Also, discuss how foods like cake, pie, candy and sodas have no nutritional value and can lead to illnesses. Remind your kids often about eating right and ask them what they’ve had to eat today. Conversations like this can help the whole family become more aware of what they’re eating.
Make It a Lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle includes staying active, eating right and staying in touch with your loved ones. Too often, parents get busy and forget to ask their kids how they’re doing and what’s going on in their lives. Healthy relationships start at home. Ask your kids to go for a walk with you, then talk about your day and ask them to share theirs.
Very often, our children are going through difficult things at school that parents aren’t even aware of. Some of these issues can become very severe if not nipped in the bud. These include bullying, fighting, not completing homework assignments, and others. Even in elementary school now, children might have peers who offer them drugs and alcohol so staying in touch as a family is very important. Staying healthy is all about developing good habits like regular exercise, eating wholesome foods and talking to those you love each day.