Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Is Your New Year Off to a Healthy Start?

You can live a healthy lifestyle by staying active and eating healthy. That sounds so easy yet is often a big challenge. In fact, I am sure many of us have New Year’s resolutions to do just that and by now are finding just how difficult it can be. Gymathtics is an award-winning DVD that can help children stay active while providing an enriching educational experience. I especially love it because it incorporates watching a DVD on TV with exercise and education. And when faced with cold winter temperatures, it’s a great way to keep your mind and body sharp while staying warm.

Often, eating healthy is a bigger challenge than physical activity. Kids love to play outside, running around with friends or riding on their bikes, scooters, skateboards or whatever the latest cool thing to do is. They also tend to enjoy sports, whether it’s an organized team sport such as soccer or t-ball, or just shooting hoops in the driveway. We often learn just how much our kids need to move on a day when they’ve cooped up for too long and start, sometimes literally, bouncing off the walls.

There is a short video clip that claims getting kids to eat healthy foods is easier if it’s a family effort. So we can use our children as an excuse to get ourselves healthy. Dr. Robert Needlman, a pediatrician and co-author of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care book, offers some tips to help your kids make good healthy choices when it comes to snacking and meals.

The key to successfully modifying eating habits is to build in changes one step at a time. Kids know what foods are healthy, so it’s not a matter of educating them that an apple is a better choice than a brownie. By following these steps, a child can eventually get to a healthier weight.

A key component of Needlman’s program is to plan out meals and snacks in advance and reduce temptations. Planning and preparing ahead will actually make it much more likely that your child will eat a healthy lunch. If the food is cut up, in a bag and ready to go at meal-time, all you have to do is take it out of the refrigerator and give it to your child. Getting them to eat it may be a bigger challenge, so it’s important to get the kids involved and find out which healthy snacks they prefer. Availability also plays a big role in what people eat. If the pantry is stocked with cookies and chips, that apple or banana is going to look pretty unattractive.

Needlman encourages us to make those cookies and chips a treat, not an everyday snack. When you do this, fruit and other healthy snacks become attractive and actually taste better. There are scientific studies demonstrating that taste perception adjusts itself to what’s available. If you eat the cookies and chips all the time, the apples do not taste so good.

Have you successfully incorporated any of these tips in your household? Is there anything else you do to encourage your children to eat healthy that works well?