Incorporate these simple ideas into your lifestyle to help keep your family healthy and happy.
For all families
- Create a safe food environment. Eliminate tempting foods and sodas from the house.
- Give children big cups of water when they come home from school and with each meal. Water is the best way to replenish the body's fluids and is a low-cost and healthy beverage.
- Reduce television watching. Insist that children do the "TV-commercial boogie": dancing, jumping, or simply standing up and moving their arms and legs around during commercials. Doing this increases children's physical activity and reduces the impact of fast-food-focused advertising.
- Spend at least 30 minutes each day (60 is better) playing before starting homework. Encourage your child to play outside.
- Eat together as a family, sitting at a table without distractions.
Up To Age 5
- Breast-feed. Studies have shown that breast-feeding helps protect against
diabetes and obesity.
- When you start a baby on solid foods, give vegetables before fruits to avoid developing a sweet tooth.
- Don't restrict dietary fats for children under 2 years. Their developing brains require adequate amounts of fat in the diet. So, for example, whole milk and yogurt can be good choices for toddlers.
- Don't worry about weight in very young children. What a toddler weighs is not indicative of his or her adult weight. A parent's weight, particularly the mother's, is a better predictor of potential weight problems.
- Don't restrict portions for young children. Preschoolers naturally stop eating when they are full.
- Expose small children to a diversity of food. Children often don't like a new food the first time they try it, so give them second—and third—chances to acquaint themselves with it.
- See what motivates teenagers to lose weight. Fighting cancer may not motivate them, but having nicer skin, fitting into a smaller size, or improving their athletic performance might.
- Include teenagers in decision making about food and exercise.
- Teach your teenager how to eat out without pigging out, by buying kids' meals (half the calories, plus a toy!), splitting meals, ordering appetizers instead of entrées, and knowing which foods to avoid entirely.
- Many teenagers like to talk on the telephone. Tell your teen, "You can talk as long as you walk." (This may require investing in a cordless phone.) The moment your teen sits down, the conversation is over.
Specifically For Parents
- Set aside family time for shared physical activity, such as walks after dinner.
- Use positive reinforcement.
- Don't use food as a reward or a punishment.
- Set guidelines and limits, explain them, and stick to them.
- Be a good role model.
Source: Trim Kids (HarperResource, 2001).