Healthy Childhood Habits and Why They’re Important

 In Arizona Heart Foundation Blog, Heart Healthy Food

Childhood obesity rates have been on the rise since the 70’s, hitting an all-time high now at 18.4% of school-aged children being classified as obese. Childhood obesity can have negative implications on health even after childhood, so being mindful of diet and exercise is very important.

According to the World Heart Federation, being obese as a child can lead to long term health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and various cardiovascular diseases. That’s why forming healthy habits as a child is critical to having good health later in life. Here are some recommendations to help your family build healthy habits.

Family Eating a Healthy Dinner Together

When it comes to food, it can often be challenging and time consuming to think of healthy meals to feed children, especially when adults usually struggle with it themselves! But there are easy ways to teach your children good eating habits.

  • Instead of eating food directly from the package, try repackaging calorie-dense foods into individual portions. This will help prevent overeating and teach useful habits regarding serving size.
  • Encourage your child to eat slowly. Scarfing down food results in taking in too many calories before your body has the chance to realize it isn’t hungry anymore.
  • Try not to use food as a reward or a punishment. For example, sending a child to bed without dinner as a punishment could give them the mindset that they need to eat whatever they can find so they won’t go hungry. However, the opposite is also true! If junk food is consistently used as a reward during childhood, one will grow up with the mindset that junk food is “worth more” than healthier food and start to value it more. Use fun activities or family outings as a reward instead. Don’t base activities around food. This can be a hard one! It is very easy to invite someone over to bake treats or go out for ice cream but doing that with every social event and playdate can quickly teach a child that socialization revolves around eating. Rather than center activities around making or eating food, pack healthy snacks in advance so it isn’t a focus of the activity.

Group of Three Children Riding Bikes Together

Being active is also a big contributor to a healthy lifestyle as well. Learning how to exercise and play sports, or even just how to stay off the couch as a child can benefit one for the rest of their lives in addition to hindering childhood obesity. Along with that, having good sleep habits is necessary to grow and have enough energy to get through the day without relying on caffeine.

  • Get yourselves off the couch! According to Mayo Clinic, too much screen time as a child has been linked to obesity, loss of social skills, and irregular sleep schedules. Go for a walk around the block, or even find something else inside the house to do.
  • Find a sport or activity your child enjoys. Physical activity that your child likes can turn into a lifelong hobby that helps them stay fit.
  • Emphasize the importance of a good night’s sleep. Practice good sleep hygiene by not using electronics in bed and maintaining a sleep schedule.

Old habits die hard, which is why starting good habits while young is important. Remember that your child’s habits start with you, so be a role model by demonstrating healthy behavior.

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