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All of the talk about resolutions to lose weight in the New Year seems to focus on adults who went overboard during the holidays - but what about teens and children? Don’t they celebrate right along with the rest of the family? Starting with Halloween and continuing through Hanukah, Christmas and Kwanza there are many more special goodies available to children that can add extra calories to their diets and possibly lead to weight gain, too.
If that sounds familiar, maybe it’s time to refresh your entire family’s healthy eating and fitness goals to start the year off right!
Setting the Pace
Parents and other caregivers are role models for the lifestyle behaviors they’d like their children to adopt, so if parents are off track, their children probably are too. But our job as role models also applies to how we get back on track. That is why it is so important to make sensible weight management decisions. Going on a crash diet or starting an over-zealous exercise regime does not send the right message to your children. Instead, you can set a good example so they can follow in your footsteps. Here are a few suggestions to get started:
- Have a conversation with your children about how much better you feel when you make the right food choices and get enough regular physical activity. They need to hear you talk about eating healthy foods and being physically active in positive terms, not as unpleasant experiences.
- Provide the same healthier food choices to everyone in the family. Even those who do not have to lose weight should eat a well-balanced diet. So if you buy foods such as fresh fruit for snacking, lowfat yogurt or unsweetened cereal, make them available to everyone in the household, not just those who have a few pounds to lose.
- Take advantage of ways you can be more active as a family and while doing routine things so the “fit” choice becomes automatic. A few examples are to walk or bike instead of taking the car whenever possible, stand to watch youth ballgames instead of sitting in the bleachers, and climb the stairs instead of taking the escalators in the mall.
Here are 20 more tips to help you and your kids start the New Year off right!:
10 Ways to Encourage Healthier Eating Habits for Children and Teens
Let them -
- Help plan the family menus for the week
- Pick healthy new foods to try, using grocery store circulars
- Review cookbooks to select new recipes featuring less familiar foods, such as new kinds of vegetables, whole grains or fish
- Read labels to learn serving sizes of different foods, and then measure them out to see what they look like
- Count out and pre-package single servings of their favorite snacks to help with portion control
- Make and pack their own lunch each day with foods from a variety of the food groups (to learn more about the 5 food groups, visit ChooseMyPlate.gov)
- Try foods and drinks made with no calorie sweeteners, like SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener, as substitutes for full-sugar options
- Keep track of how many different servings of fruit they eat each week including fresh, frozen, dried, canned or 100% juice
- Check menus and nutritional information online before going out to eat or ordering take-out
- Set the table with smaller plates and bowls than the ones used by adults
10 Ways to Help Children and Teens Become More Active Everyday
Let them -
- Do age-appropriate chores on a daily and/or weekly basis – make beds, vacuum, walk the dog
- Mute the TV during commercials and lead the family in fitness breaks - marching in place, jumping jacks, sit-ups
- Practice doing something physically demanding a set number of hours per week to improve their “score”– jump rope, shoot hoops, kicking a soccer ball into the goal
- Arrive early for team practice and walk or run laps around the field or court
- Use a local street map to plan family walks throughout the neighborhood
- Ride a bike or skate board to an area of town with designated bike & blade paths
- Schedule family sports competitions using active video games
- Participate in fund-raising walks to support a good cause
- Turn up their favorite music and have a weekly dance party
- Visit pick-your-own farms to pick apples, berries or whatever’s in season
For even more tips on weight management for children and teens, read this blog by my SPLENDA LIVING™ colleague, Sue Taylor.
Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.