As parents, many of us understand the task of aptly preparing our kids for the long journey ahead of them. One of the most important factors for a long, healthy life is nutrition and exercise. In a world of fad (sometimes harmful) diets, as well as the growing rate of childhood obesity in the U.S., teaching kids at a young age the importance of a well-balanced lifestyle is crucial.
It’s no secret that If it was up to our kids, every meal would include a few slices of cake, a bag or two of chips, and of course their favorite candy bars. To be fair, many adults struggle with the same impulse control. As parents, though, we have the chance to set the right foundation for our kids and their future health.
Of course, some dinners can feel like a battle no matter what’s on the table, but working towards the goal of helping our kids lead a healthy lifestyle will help ensure they leave the nest ready to take on most temptations.
The Growing Concern for Children’s Health
Unfortunately, the bad news is, according to Ohio University, 208,000 Americans under 20 years old have been diagnosed with diabetes. Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that obesity currently affects around 13 million children and adolescents in the U.S. This is troubling for obvious reasons, but in parents’ defense, kids are notorious for being the animal kingdom’s pickiest eaters. No matter how many times you explain the importance of good nutrition and a well-balanced diet, kids would often rather starve than eat a plate of veggies.
It’s also worth pointing out the other factors stacked against parents when it comes to their kids’ diet. As experts at Healthline explain, “the food industry certainly doesn’t help by spending $2 billion a year marketing a barrage of highly processed junk foods to children and teenagers, including sweetened cereals, packaged lunches with processed meats and candies, and juice drinks that are essentially flat soda.” This means that despite parents’ best efforts, kids are constantly exposed to some unhealthy influences via social media, friends, and ads. That’s why it’s so essential for parents to plant the seeds of healthy habits and talk more with kids about their bodies and health, beyond “because I said so.”
Getting on the Right Track
Snack time is a great place to start working on kids’ diet choices. Considering most kids would rather have snack time all day, every day (rather than a decent meal), it’s the perfect excuse to start including some healthy choices. Granted, that might sound easier said than done, especially considering how complicated nutrition labels can get these days. Luckily, snack time does not have to be too complicated or bland to be healthy. Some nutrition-friendly snack ideas via the same experts from Healthline are:
- Yogurt for a great dose of calcium and protein. Just avoid the sugar-packed options.
- Popcorn is a great whole grain snack, sprinkle some grated parmesan cheese on top for extra flavor.
- Cottage cheese is a good source of selenium, vitamin B12, and calcium — plus it can be spruced up pretty easily with fruit.
- Nuts are rich in healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants (just be careful about choking hazards).
- Baked sweet potato fries are not only tasty, but they serve up plenty of vitamin A.
Really, the list of healthy treats is endless. While you can always go with the classics, it also never hurts to come up with your own healthy snacks as a family. Kids tend to enjoy their food a lot more when they feel like the contributed to the whole process. Plus, you might end up finding a new family favorite!
A Better Mindset
Overall, the biggest take away when it comes to teaching kids about a better lifestyle is mindfulness. Mindfulness is really the key to helping them make those important future decisions (when you’re no longer around to tell them what to do). Mindfulness is not only useful when it comes to dieting, but generally instills an awareness of how our decisions affect us physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Mindful eating and exercise is just one piece of the puzzle, but it is extremely important. It’s also okay to admit if you didn’t grow up with the most mindful parents and missed out on learning how to whip up those tasty, healthy meals. Today, there are plenty of options on the market that can teach both you and your kids how to cook those Instagram-worthy dishes.
Particularly, prepared meals that are delivered to your door are very popular these days because they do offer a lot of learning opportunities for rookie chefs, plus you can often tailor the meals to your family’s needs. There is also a plethora of cookbooks available today, from plant-based diets to gluten-free, learning to cook is easier than ever before.
Finding creative ways to ensure kids’ health is being taken care of isn’t always easy, but it is invaluable, especially as they grow older and begin making their own decisions. With the growing concern over children’s diet and general lifestyle these days, it’s important that we begin setting the right example and making those more mindful choices. Good luck!