4 Tips for Raising Healthy Kids

Your week is full of play dates, soccer games and after school music lessons, right? So you’re probably not too concerned about how active your child is. Most days, if it wasn’t for your thermos full of coffee and priceless 5 hours of sleep, you would barely keep up with them. However, there’s more to raising healthy kids than enrolling them in sports and the clean plate club. Here are some tips that will help you provide a foundation of fitness, nutrition and mindfulness to support your child’s growth and future health.

Make Fitness Fun

Close your eyes for a moment and think back to gym class when you were in grade school. Chances are, if you were never sent to the nurse’s office for a dodgeball to the head or to treat a finger that was rolled over by a scooter, you knew someone who was. Regardless of how athletic you were, most of us have at least one unpleasant memory of gym class and grade school sports. Personal training clients of mine have complained about doing wall sits, saying it gives them horrible flashbacks of their fitness experience as a child. Your child’s impression of fitness and exercise starts with YOU. Not every “exercise” has to involve a whistle, stop watch or bleacher runs. To be honest, I never completed a mile without stopping until I was a sophomore in high school. Prior to that (and honestly, still at that time), I despised the day we had to “run the mile.” I’m pretty sure I didn’t get any sleep the night before–maybe that’s why I struggled so much while running? ? Raising healthy kids means offering them options so they can explore a variety of activities. Where to begin? Check out my article, Myths and Facts About Youth Fitness.

Be Prepared for the After School Snack Marathon

It’s inevitable. As soon as your kids walk in the front door after a long day at school, they chime, “I’m hungry!” Much like their desire to learn, their appetites are never ending. That package of cookies and box of crackers you bought over the weekend? Those will likely be gone by Friday, if not sooner. However, if you keep good foods on hand, they will have only good foods to choose from. Focus on nutrient-rich foods that are high in protein to help keep you child full and fueled. Combine fruits with protein sources such as cottage cheese, nut butters or yogurt. Speaking of yogurt, be sure to check the nutrition label. There are plenty of brands that contain as much sugar as a serving of Nutella (about 18 gram!). Be selective and find one that are under 8 grams.

One of my favorite high protein and kid friendly options are Shrewd Food Snacks. They come in single serving packages (hallelujah for portion control!) and contain less than 3 grams of sugar with an amazing 14 grams of protein per serving. Whether you prefer sweet or savory, their flavors ranges from Brickoven Pizza to Cookies and Cream. Order them here and save 10% with code SFMEGAN10. Air popped popcorn is another fun and smart choice. Place about 1/3 cup of plain seeds in a brown paper bag, fold over the top a couple of times to seal it tightly, then microwave for approximately 2 minutes. It’s delicious topped with butter spray and some taco or ranch seasoning. Here are some more healthy snack ideas.

Embrace Differences

Just as every piece of fruit looks different, our bodies come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Whether we’re tall or short, larger or smaller, it’s important that your child learns none of these are “better” than the other. We do not know what someone else’s life is like–what genetic or medical circumstances contribute to their physique. Nor do we know what their home life is like and how active they may or may not be, along with the food choices they’re given. Be a role model for your child and emphasis leading by example. “I like to eat apples because the taste good and give me energy.” Focus on strength, confidence and emotional health vs. appearance.

Provide Your Child with Options

There’s no better way to build your child’s confidence than offering them the freedom of choice. No, this doesn’t mean allowing free rein of the pantry before dinner time or opting for cinnamon rolls over oatmeal every morning. But, rather than say “here’s the lasagna I made and you’re going to eat it” (as they pick at the peppers and cringe at the sight of mushrooms), consider providing them with healthy options. “We’re having mac and cheese for dinner–would you like green beans or broccoli to go along with it?” The key is to anchor their meal with at least one food they enjoy, then give them the option of which veggie (or other food items) they’d like.

What kinds of healthy habits do you practice with your child? Share below! I’d love to know.