A lot goes into raising children. It can be very overwhelming! Fortunately, there are many things you can do each day to improve your child’s health.
Unfortunately, there are many potential health issues for parents to contend with.
For example, increasing numbers of overweight or obese children is a significant issue.
Here are a few ways you can improve your child’s health and help them develop healthy habits for life:
Create a Healthy, Non-Restrictive House
There are many health issues that children can face, but one of the most prominent is long-term weight management. Western societies are dominated by trends that lead to unhealthy amounts of weight gain, and weight gain amongst children is skyrocketing.
Steady, gradual weight gain that leads to increased numbers of overweight or obese adolescents can be caused by only a positive energy balance of only 70kcal to 160kcal per day, and promoting small dietary and physical activity changes can have a significant effect on the growing rates of overweight and obese adolescents (Pereira et al., 2013).
Considering the relatively small positive energy balance difference that generally leads to long-term weight gain, promoting small, effective changes can have substantially more beneficial impacts than the promotion of strict dieting practices, which also are a predictor of future weight gain, metabolic syndrome, obesity in children and adolescents (Dulloo & Montani, 2015).
Not only does dieting promote metabolic adaptations to weight loss, but it also promotes behavior patterns in adolescents that are not congruent with long-term weight management success (Neumark-Sztainer et al., 2007).
For long-term weight management success, parents and children must be aligned on the expectations and behaviors necessary for promoting weight loss or weight management (Azar et al., 2020). Parents play a critical role in the eating habits of adolescents as adolescents consume approximately 63–65%.
Therefore, parents must keep healthy foods readily available in the homes, cook balanced meals, and remove unhealthy snacks and drinks from the home environment. Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) are especially important to have removed from the home as SSBs are positively associated with or positively affect obesity rates in children, adolescents, and adults (Luger et al., 2017).
On the other hand, increased fiber intake is inversely correlated with weight gain and the risk of becoming overweight or obese for adolescents (Patrick et al., 2004).
Weight gain in adolescents is often accrued gradually, and small daily changes can make a substantial difference. For example, a moderate increase in physical activity, accompanied by a decrease in sugar-sweetened beverages and an increase in nutrient-dense fibrous foods, can make up the 70-160kcal difference necessary to reduce the risk of weight gain and promote weight loss, without resulting to dieting that can have harmful long-term effects.
You don’t have to be scared that your child could be on a path to being overweight or obese. Instead, focus on making small, simple, significant changes that can lead to incredible long-term results for their health!
Model Healthy Cooking and Eating
For parents, modeling healthy practices is a critical step to helping their children develop healthy lifestyle habits that lead to weight management (A Loth et al., 2014). Including children or adolescents in cooking and grocery shopping can go a long way because it lets them feel like they have an opinion in what they are consuming, and it also gives the parents an opportunity to model healthy choices and skills.
Furthermore, parents can use cooking and shopping time (as available) to establish family norms that can stick with children for their entire lives.
Not to mention, habits your child builds now can have a huge impact on the habits they maintain as an adult.
Serving healthy food from a young age, and eating those foods yourself, can help normalize fruit and vegetable intake. If your child grows up thinking that’s just what you’re supposed to eat, they will be more likely to continue eating those foods later in life.
Additionally, early food experiences are especially important and can set the groundwork for a life of healthy eating or an increased predisposition for the overconsumption of sugary and fatty foods. Young children often demonstrate increased levels of food neophobia, and it can be difficult to get them to try any new foods (De Cosmi et al., 2017).
However, increased exposure to new foods can increase the likelihood that a toddler or young child will try the few, so parents must understand food avoidance is common, and that they may have to repeatedly try at different feeding sessions to get their child to eat a new healthy food.
Parents of toddlers and young children should understand that repeated exposure to healthy foods can promote life-long healthy eating habits as they develop and taste and habit for eating certain foods at these ages.
Utilizing these important points of influence, as parents, is critical for long-term weight management for children and adolescents.
Make Sure Your Child is Getting All Their Vitamins and Minerals
There are 13 vitamins and 14 minerals that are essential for the growth of your child. Although you’d prefer your children to get all of these vitamins and minerals through their diet, that is not always possible.
For children, calcium is an especially important nutrient. In fact, the main determinant of bone health as an adult is calcium intake as an infant or child!
Peak bone mass cannot be obtained in life if children do not receive enough calcium as they need per day, so special attention should be placed on drinking milk and consuming other calcium-rich foods. Quality supplements for bone health are available for those who do not consume enough milk or calcium-rich foods each day, but the focus should be on consuming enough calcium through the diet.
Vitamin supplements like Thorne basic nutrients for children or Rainbow Light Kid’s One multivitamins can assist with making sure that children have enough vitamins in their diets. Since children are doing more growing than any other age of human, it is even more important that they are getting enough vitamins and minerals in their diets.
Encourage Regular Physical Activity
Not only is it important to eat healthy foods, but it’s also important to encourage your child to engage in regular exercise.
Additionally, parents play an important role in facilitating physical activity as adolescents often model physical activity patterns after their parents, and parents can play an important role in encouraging physical activity habits. A lack of physical activity, and specifically vigorous physical activity, is associated with an increased risk of becoming overweight for adolescents.
That might mean taking your older child to the gym or a yoga class with you, but modeling active behavior doesn’t mean you have to pay to take classes or buy a gym membership! Staying active with your child from an early age is all it takes.
A few ways to increase physical activity include:
- Play Outdoor Games or Exercise Outside
- Limit Screen Time for Kids and Adults
- Do a House Cleaning Workout
- Find Any Enjoyable Activity You Can Do Together!
By making exercise something more than lifting weights at the gym, you can help your child have a better relationship with exercise as an adult.
Running, in particular, is an excellent exercise for children. Running is a healthy sport for people of all ages. Also, it doesn’t cost a lot to get started. Generally, it is easy and affordable to find clothes and shoes that support the body and protects the feet. Just For Kix is a good place to find a wide selection and at a good price.
Furthermore, by creating a conducive environment for your child to be active at home, there is a much greater chance that they grow up healthy and fit!
Your child’s room could become a place where physical activity takes place, instead of a place where they are sedentary. You can check out Baby Gears Pro for awesome equipment for your kids!
The goal is just to give the child ample space to move, and various places to climb, slide, and move around. Kids room ideas such as this are excellent because not only will your child learn the basics of certain physical movements, but they also will have a full-time distraction from the computer or television.
One final tip is to try using a fitness watch designed for your kids, which can motivate your child to achieve physical activity goals. The fitness watch rewards them with different incentives such as points, trophies, or a level unlock, just like a video game, which makes the task of staying active an overall exciting experience. To find fitness tracker options that can help your child become more active, check out this list of the Best Fitness Trackers for Kids.
Monitor Their Physical Health Closely
One of the main and most underrated keys to maintaining long-term physical health is closely monitoring their physical health. Health problems such as vertigo (otherwise known as Chakkar Aana) can be difficult to notice. For example, causes of vertigo include Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BBPV), which is an issue with the ear canal and can have symptoms including ear pain, ear ringing, hearing loss, or ear stuffiness.
So, you might believe that your child’s ear pain is nothing serious, but if left untreated or un-examined, it could lead to something serious.
The same goes for all other areas of their physical health. If something seems wrong, never hesitate to have it examined further.
Model and Encourage Healthy Friendships
The role of friendships in our lives is extremely important. Friends can boost happiness, decrease stress, improve your confidence, provide encouragement, and help you cope with life challenges.
It’s important to encourage your child’s friendships by asking them about their friends, allowing them to invite them over, and fostering ways for your child to make new friends.
It means modeling healthy adult friendships too! Don’t be afraid to take off for an evening out with the girls or invite a few friends over for dinner. When your child sees you make time to nurture your friendships, they will be more likely to take the time to nurture their friendships as an adult too.
Read in Front of and to Your Children
You probably already understand the importance of reading to your child. Kids whose parents read aloud to them hear over a million more words than children whose parents don’t read to them. That can be a huge advantage when it comes to reading and writing in school.
However, providing your child with lifelong reading habits means more than reading their favorite book with them before bed every night.
Parents who read for fun in front of their kids are more likely to have kids that grow up to read too, so sit down on the couch and try reading for fun yourself!
Encourage Their Interests
Every child has natural talents. Unfortunately, if they think those talents are dumb, or if they think they aren’t very good at whatever it is they’re interested in, they may drop it for good. This can cause your child to develop low self-esteem, not to mention it sets them up to have a less fulfilling adulthood.
Help your child develop their true talents, no matter what they may be. It is important to note that you should support them in their interests, but that doesn’t mean you should try and make them interested in something just because you want them to be.
If they don’t enjoy what they’re doing, they aren’t going to give it their all, and they’re likely to drop it as soon as they become an adult.
Practicing arts and crafts has a wide variety of mental health benefits for children. Sewing, for example, can improve their motor skills while also increasing their creativity and imagination.
As you can imagine, many kids want to be more creative and smart, but it is not as easy as you think. Doing art and craft-related activities with your children is a great way to encourage their interest and can improve their creativity and other skills.
You can check out CraftOnline for excellent children’s craft items, and have fun!
Concluding Thoughts – Supporting Your Child’s Health
It’s important to care for your child’s mental and physical health right now, but it’s also important to think about your child’s mental and physical health in the future.
The tips on this list will help you set them up for a lifetime of personal success.