Q: [School-Aged] I’m encouraging my kids to come up with a healthy eating goal as part of our family’s 2018 New Year’s resolutions. What can I do to make sure that our focus on healthy eating doesn’t cause my kids to become fixated on dieting?
A: The start of the New Year is a good way to get the entire family to focus on healthy eating habits while also removing any excess sweets and holiday party leftovers from your home. The key here is to make sure that your children understand that this resolution has nothing to do with body image or dieting — it’s about making choices that support their growth and lays the foundation for healthy habits to last a lifetime.
Traditional dieting consists of consuming a reduced number of calories than the body burns in a single day. This can accelerate weight loss, especially if it is paired with regular exercise. If you child needs to lose weight, it is best to work with a physician to develop a customized program catered to his or her health goals.
Regardless, here are some tips to help encourage healthy eating habits in 2018:
Become a role model: Children imitate their parents. Serve as an example at the breakfast and dinner table and fill your plate with plenty of healthy foods. That way, they see you enjoying your healthy food and will be encouraged to do the same.
Create a food game: Educate your kids about which foods are healthy (and which aren’t) in a fun and creative way. Have them grade their daily meal components — for example, apples and other fruits receive a good grade while bacon and fried foods receive a failing one. Then, sit down as a family, and discuss why some foods pass the tests and why they are good choices for our overall health.
Set up a healthy rewards system: It can be easy to rely on incentives such as ice cream or sweets for an A on a math test or winning a soccer game. Instead, reward them with a fun outdoor activity such as a visit to a local park, a neighborhood swimming pool, family hike, bicycle ride, etc.
Make family dinner time a priority: Stopping by a local fast food restaurant on the way home from dance class, baseball practice or any other extracurricular activities isn’t a good habit. Instead, set aside a time each night where the entire family can sit down and eat meals together. Include your kids in meal preparation. This also helps to reinforce the concept that good-for-you-foods are also part of a healthy lifestyle.
dsdsdsPshyra Jones, MPH, CHES, is a leader at CalOptima providing publicly funded health care coverage for low-income children, adults, seniors and people with disabilities in OC. It serves 795,000 members through 7,000 primary care doctors/specialists, and 30 hospitals. For additional information, visit www.caloptima.org.