Over the past few years (especially the past two) the topic about health has been trending non-stop and with good reason.
Health is something that should never be taken for granted and while a lot of things are beyond our control, a healthy lifestyle and the way we look after our bodies are things we can control.
As today marks World Health Day, isn’t it the perfect opportunity to embark on a journey of teaching your kids the importance of a healthy lifestyle?
The most effective health habits start in the early years of childhood and it’s never too early to start teaching your children about healthy living. In fact, nothing keeps you from starting today.
Here are five simple ways to start instilling healthy habits in your kids on World Health Day:
Start a vegetable garden
By growing your own fruit and vegetables, you get to teach your children about nutrition and where fresh produce comes from in a fun and practical way (with the bonus of getting some Vitamin D).
Growing things like lettuce, spinach, tomatoes and herbs like rosemary and basil are very simple and easy for kids to get involved – from planting to picking.
You don’t even have to have a proper vegetable patch to start growing your own vegetables and herbs; you can grow microgreens or sprouts in pots on your windowsill.
Besides being educational, getting kids involved with growing plants also helps to cultivate caring, responsibility, self-confidence and love of nature.
Remove sweet temptations
Avoiding the sweet aisle in any supermarket or the sweet table at a birthday party is nearly impossible when you have kids.
But, as with most things in life, the concept of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ works wonders when it comes to adapting to a healthy lifestyle.
See World Health Day as an opportunity to go through your pantry – out with the sweets, in with healthier treats.
If sugary foods are removed from your children (and your) immediate environment, there will be less temptation to indulge in them.
Therefore, commit to stocking your pantry with healthy alternatives instead.
Replace juice with water (you can even add a couple of mint leaves and strawberries to it for colour and excitement) and replace sweets with healthy snacks like nuts, popcorn and fresh fruit.
Teach your children that if they are hungry, a healthy snack will keep them fuller for longer and that it will give them more sustained energy rather than a quick sugar high (and the crash that follows).
Teach them to listen to their bodies
Once we’re in touch with our bodies, it’s easier to respond to what they need, especially when it comes to eating and drinking.
Encourage your child to pay attention to when they are thirsty, when they feel full or how they feel when they eat certain foods (or too much of it).
Teaching your child to pay attention to body signals with things like digestion can pave the way to healthy eating habits and good food choices as they get older.
They should learn to listen to their bodies if something feels “off” too.
Recognising illness in its early stages often makes it far easier to treat. If you are a member of a medical aid like Fedhealth, being on a plan geared to families means you can get the early medical intervention your child needs, rather than worrying about costs of doctors’ visits, and in doing so delaying treatment.
Make physical activity part of their day
Nutritious food might be important, but moving one’s body is just as important and a key factor in long-term health.
Kids are naturally energetic, so harness this tendency by making sure they get enough exercise on a daily basis. Make this day – World Health Day – count and add exercising with your kids part of your daily routine from this day forward.
Lure them outside and let them run around the garden or climb a tree.
As difficult as it might seem, cultivating an attitude of getting outside even when it’s cold and rainy outside, is important.
Think gumboots and anoraks.
It’s also a great idea to make getting outside and moving part of your routine that you can do together as a family – walk to a playdate, visit a community pool or park, ride bicycles together, take a walk around the block.
Ensure enough sleep
The South African movement guidelines suggests that children up to five years old need to get between 11 and 14 hours of sleep per night and pre-schoolers between 10 and 13 hours.
These hours may include a nap.
The reality, though is that many children don’t get that much sleep, which leads to poor concentration, mood swings and poor eating habits.
To ensure regular good sleep for your kids, make sure your bedtime routine is firm and predictable – make bedtime roughly the same time each night, stick to calming activities, and remove screens several hours before bedtime.
Children are copycats.
The best way to ensure your kids adopt a healthy lifestyle, is to live a healthy lifestyle yourself.
If you don’t want them to eat junk food, prepare healthy meals at home. If you want them to be active, be active yourself.
Making healthy habits and routines consistent, fun and flexible means that your children will see the benefit for many years to come.
If you do this, they will enter adulthood with a solid outlook on what constitutes health – a gift they will come to value for the rest of their lives.