When I was younger, I thought parenting was all about love. And yes, it is. But there’s so much more. Being a parent is about providing a safe, stable, and supportive home. It’s about teaching good habits, instilling a strong worth ethic, and creating positive self-talk so that your child(ren) grow up with empathy, confidence, and self-love. I will admit that I don’t know everything about how to raise healthy children (especially in this crazy world!), but I do know that if you try to be the best parent you can be, your child will inevitably benefit.
Here are a few suggestions as you embark on your health journey.
1. Pay Attention To Nutrition
Nutrition is everything. If you can instill healthy habits, especially from a young age, your children will grow up with stronger immune systems. They’ll also have the ability to differentiate between nutrient-dense and non-nutrient-dense foods (which makes a big difference as they and can make food choices for themselves!)
Eating nutritious foods helps children develop strong muscles, bones, and the ability to fight of illness and infection. So, aim, (as much as you can) to feed your kids meals that include whole grains (like brown rice or oats); lean proteins (like chicken, fish, or tofu); fruits and vegetables; low-fat dairy products; nuts; legumes; and other nutrient-rich foods like eggs or avocados. Offering healthy snacks between meals is also essential to maintain good energy levels throughout the day.
However, one of the most important health tips is to avoid processed foods and dyes as much as you can. There are so many snacks, cereals, beverages, etc. that are marketed to children and unfortunately filled with additives, preservatives, and food dyes.
Sometimes it can feel impossible to make healthy choices, but just start small! Take the first step by swapping some of the ingredients in your pantry for healthier alternatives (for example instead of Doritos, try these Siete chips instead!)
2. Stay Active With Your Family
If you want to raise healthy children, then striving to include physical activity (on a regular basis) is essential! However, sometimes it can be challenging for parents to find ways to motivate their kids when it comes to physical activity, as some children may not be interested in sports or want to participate in conventional forms of exercise, like running or going to the gym.
One great way around this issue is by finding activities that involve the whole family — such as hikes, bike rides, or outdoor sports — so everyone can have fun while getting some exercise! This way, you can spend quality time together while promoting a healthy lifestyle for your kids.
3. Provide Mental Stimulation
Mental stimulation is just as crucial for your child’s health and development as physical activity. This keeps their minds sharp and can help them learn new skills more quickly. One easy way to provide mental stimulation for your kids is by reading books together, playing educational games, or doing age-appropriate puzzles.
You can also encourage creative playtime through arts and crafts, involve your children in musical activities (like singing or playing instruments), or even signing them up for therapy to help their brains and bodies stay engaged (such as occupational therapy, equestrian therapy, etc.).
4. Visit Your Pediatrician Regularly
Make sure your child is in good health by taking them for regular check-ups with their pediatrician. Not only will this help you stay up-to-date on any potential medical issues that may have come up since the last visit, but it can also provide an opportunity for you, your doctor, and your child to discuss any concerns or questions.
Additionally, many pediatricians offer advice regarding nutrition, exercise, and other lifestyle habits, which can be helpful to support your message of health and wellness at home. Just be sure that you find one of the best pediatricians in your area to ensure that your child receives quality, attentive care.
5. Practice Good Hygiene
Good hygiene habits should be instilled as early as possible! Teaching the basics of washing hands before meals, brushing their teeth twice a day, showering regularly, and changing clothes is essential for raising healthy children (especially in a world where illness has become prevalent and worrisome!).
The easiest way to teach this is to show. Model appropriate hand-washing techniques, help your child understand how to wash himself/herself (especially private areas!), and consider purchasing a child health book to help teach them about their changing bodies.
PS: Here are some book suggestions! My step-son and read “Guy Stuff” (for boys) and he really engaged with it! I also read “The Care & Keeping Of You” (for girls) when I was younger and enjoyed it. Even as an adult, I still like how it shares information!
6. Lead By Example
Kids learn more from what you do than what you say, so it’s a good idea to try to lead by example when it comes to healthy lifestyles. This means ensuring you’re also eating nutritious meals, staying active, and limiting your exposure to things like cigarettes and alcohol. Kids also pick up on stress, so it can be helpful for parents to take time for themselves to relax and unwind — whether through exercise or other relaxation techniques. Showing kids that these practices are essential will help them understand the value of leading a healthy life now and in the future.
However, don’t feel like you need to be perfect!
It’s important to remember that your children are looking at you to learn everything (from coping mechanisms to personal style). So, if you’re having a bad day or struggling, don’t shelter them from this! Showing your children that you make mistakes, eat unhealthy, and don’t always stick to a ‘strict’ routine is important for them to see so that they don’t put unrealistic pressure on themselves to be perfect.