As we welcome 2021, it’s time to reevaluate your family’s eating habits and make sure the little ones are living a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle. Food preferences are usually developed early on in life, so if your children aren’t already following a balanced diet and incorporating positive routines into their days, now is a great time to get started.
Here are five tips from our team to help your kids start the new year off right.
1. Don’t Skip Breakfast
A balanced breakfast is a great way to start the day. We know mornings can get hectic, but breakfast can help your kids be more focused throughout the day. And, by adding protein, they will stay fuller longer.
Greek yogurt, peanut butter on whole-grain toast or egg sandwiches with fruit are quick, yet healthy meals to offer your children. If you have time to sit down and enjoy breakfast together, that’s even better, but even if not, always make sure they have something healthy in their stomachs before starting the day.
2. Cut Back on Sweets
Having a sweet treat every once in a while isn’t the end of the world, but making sweets a reward or daily habit can be harmful to your children. If dessert is a “prize” for finishing a meal, kids will associate ice cream or cupcakes with good habits. Try to stay neutral about foods, rather than adding value to less healthy treats.
Consider swapping out milkshakes for fruit smoothies instead. Blend fat-free or low-fat yogurt, or milk, with fruit pieces and crushed ice. Either fresh or frozen bananas, berries, peaches or pineapple make for a tasty treat, and adding a little peanut butter can also provide some protein.
Fruit popsicles can also be a great alternative treat option. These can be made by putting fresh fruit, like a peeled banana, on a stick and freezing.
3. Set a Good Example
Depending on your child’s age, they may already be picking up on your habits — good and bad — so be a role model when it comes to food and lifestyle choices.
Choose nutritious snacks for yourself and try to be active as often as possible, fitting in a morning or after-dinner walk and making that an activity for the whole family to do together. Eating together at the table when possible is another way your child can mimic your good behavior.
4. Limit Screen Time
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, preschool-aged children shouldn’t have more than one hour of screen time per day. Kids who watch a lot of television or are staring at an iPad or phone for long periods of time have a higher risk of developing obesity, insomnia and problems with inattention (such as ADHD).
Research has shown that kids who scale back their TV time have also lowered their body fat, decreasing their risk of obesity. Instead of having a regular family movie night, try a board game or puzzle, some low-intensity stretching or a walk that everyone can enjoy while still exercising minds and bodies.
5. Make Fruits and Veggies Fun
Let’s face it: Cauliflower and grapes don’t look all that appealing on their own. Try making fruits and veggies more inviting by building kabobs, either with veggies like zucchini, cucumber or squash, or fruit such as melon, apple and pears, to make a more colorful snack.
You can also try making shapes or animals with healthy snacks, like a peanut butterfly using carrot sticks for the body and wings made of sliced apples with peanut butter and grapes.
Depending on your child’s age, they might have fun and be more willing to try new things if they’re picking out their own fruits and veggies. Offer a selection or take them along to the grocery store to see what they’re most interested in.
If You Have Concerns, We’re Here to Help You Find Answers
Sometimes a child and their family can be making all the best lifestyle choices and still struggle to reach a healthy weight. If you’ve been incorporating healthy foods and activities but your child is having a hard time maintaining their weight, we can help you find answers.
Now, with a quick and easy saliva swab to complete a genetic obesity test, parents can get answers for their children who are living with obesity.
To learn more about pediatric diabetes and genetic testing, we invite you to watch our recent Ask a Kid Doc segment, featuring a question-and-answer session with AdventHealth Pediatric Endocrinologist Dr. Krystal Irizarry.
If you think the genetic obesity test could be helpful for your family, please contact our Pediatric Diabetes and Endocrinology Center at 407-896-2901.
For more information on programs and treatments available through AdventHealth for Children, click here. .