Children learn how to eat, how to feel about food and how to care for their bodies from their parents. To send out the right message, try these healthy living tips:
1. Get kids involved in food preparation and they’ll be more likely to enjoy the finished meal. Older children could cook something like pasta with a sauce once a week. And the younger ones could make pizzas with their own choice of toppings. You can also get kids interested in food by talking about where it comes from and how it’s grown.
2. Enjoy creative cooking when you have time, but don’t beat yourself up about cutting corners – convenience food doesn’t have to be unhealthy. If you are using things like ready-made sauces, choose the healthiest versions. Look out for added sugar, salt and saturated fat, and bulk out meals with plenty of vegetables.
3. Focus on wholesome, nutritious food. Switch to whole-wheat bread and pasta, brown rice and wholegrain breakfast cereals. Include healthy oils and make sure that everyone has at least five servings of fruit and vegetables every day.
4. Keep a rainbow chart of fruit and vegetables for younger children. Give them a sticker representing the colour of each portion of fruit and vegetables they eat to encourage them to eat a wider variety. If your kids are resisting vegetables, remember the blender is your friend – once a sauce is pulped, they’ll never know how many courgettes you’ve hidden in it!
5. Plan menus to include everyone’s favourites, with the deal being: ‘I’ll eat yours if you eat mine.’ Everyone in the family – whether they are at a healthy weight or not – will benefit from a healthy lifestyle, and that means that parents need to practise what they preach!
6. Allow the occasional treat. Banning treats outright has been proven not to work. Instead, limit the number you have, make them as healthy as you can, and don’t use them as a reward or punishment. Snacks are important too, but choose low-fat yogurt, fruit and vegetables over foods high in sugar, salt and saturated fat.
7. Try to be active for at least an hour every day. This may sound like a lot, but it includes unstructured activity as well as organised sports sessions. Everything from walking the dog to cleaning the house counts. To encourage activity, try to limit screen time to a maximum of two hours a day. This includes everything from TV to computers!
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