Raising healthy families can be a challenge in today's busy world, but an investment in a healthy lifestyle will reap many benefits for years to come. This is especially true for children, who are better equipped to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle when they are exposed to these habits early on.
As a mother of three children, I personally know that the demands of parenting can sometimes encourage sacrificing our health in favor of convenience and time constraints. But I also know that the stakes are high for the well-being of our children.
Today, nearly 30% of children are overweight or obese, and in the African-American and Hispanic communities that number is closer to 40%. These children will be at greater risk for diabetes, heart disease, asthma, hypertension, and other obesity-related health problems.
There are many ways parents can put their kids on the path to a healthy future. With a husband who was a professional athlete, I had a leg up in keeping my family healthy and active, so I wanted to share with you a couple tips that have worked for me. As my friend Sherryl Anthony says, “Eating healthy should be a lifestyle, not just another diet or fad!”
1) Make healthy practices part of your regular family routine, and hopefully some of those routines will stick with your kids when they are off at school and out of your sight.
2) Establish healthy eating habits at home -- this will make it more likely that your child will choose healthy options at school.
3) Eat meals together as a family, this allows parents to share in and influence the lives of their children. Dining together also gives parents the chance to establish healthy eating habits with their kids, which sets the foundation for the future.
4) Make sure kids start every day with a healthy breakfast and get enough sleep each night.
5) Use smoothies and juicing to incorporate different fruits and vegetables your children's diet. My kids love the taste of the juice and smoothies, and I'm happy because of all of the fruit and vegetables they consume in one or two servings.
6) Demonstrate the importance of being physically active. Parents should lead by example to encourage the family to be active together.
7) Have your children take the six-week Presidential Active Lifestyle Award challenge that encourages leading a healthy lifestyle. And you can take the challenge, too.
8) Fresh air and exercise are vital for healthy growth and development. If started early, children will come to love being outside and being active, instead of just sitting around watching TV or playing video games.
9) Read food labels at the store. Choose foods with 100% whole grains and look for products with short ingredient lists. If you don't recognize an ingredient, don't buy it.
10) Teach your kids these healthy eating tips:
- Eat at least eight servings of fruit and veggies a day.
- Drink six to eight cups of water a day.
- Substitute meat for other high-protein options at least twice a week.
- Use smaller plates to limit portions.
Tammara McDonald is the president of Game Changerz Inc., a nonprofit organization that utilizes the influence of pro sports wives to promote purpose-driven community initiatives and programs.