As we head into the winter months, it can be a little more difficult to keep up healthy habits with our kids. The long days of summer, filled with lots of outdoor time and fresh produce from farmer’s markets, have been replaced by cold days of indoor activity. But that doesn’t mean we can’t reinforce healthy practices all year long.
When it comes to developing healthy habits, setting a good example for your kids is the best policy. When children see parents choosing a healthy lifestyle, they’re more likely to do the same. The habits they form while they’re young— eating healthy foods, ensuring enough rest, or staying active—can last a lifetime.
Eat healthy meals and snacks
Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables, which are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, to serve your family. Frozen or canned fruits and vegetables also contain vitamins and minerals, although the processing of these products sometimes adds ingredients such as sugar, salt, or preservatives. Be sure to read the labels so you can choose what’s best for you and your family.
Aim for a diet rich in whole grains, nuts, and healthy fats such as in olive, sesame, peanut, or other oils rich in unsaturated fatty acids.
Although comfort foods like mac and cheese, pizza, and burgers are okay on occasion, they should not be part of a regular diet since many of these foods are high in fat, sugar, and salt. While shopping, limit purchases of processed snack foods such as chips, candy, and ice cream.
Encourage kids to drink water regularly. Stick with plain water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages to cut down on empty calories.
All parents know that kids are always hungry after school! When choosing after-school snacks, offer healthy alternatives to highly processed foods such as celery with peanut butter, carrot sticks, fruit, string cheese, and whole-grain crackers.
Get enough sleep
Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep. Not only is sleep an important part of a child's physical and emotional health, it also can play a role in how well they do in school.
Having a consistent bedtime routine can help ensure a good night’s sleep. Incorporate predictability into your child’s routine—for example, a bedtime snack followed by a bath, then reading time or listening to relaxing music. Consider cutting off screen time when it's getting close to bedtime.
Make physical activity part of your family’s routine. Even in cold weather, you can get outside with your kids. Turn off the screens and head out for a brisk walk. And of course, when the snow comes, lots of winter-weather fun comes with it—from building a snowman, sledding or jumping in the snow with your family pet.
Encourage your kids to try group activities, such as team sports, dance, or martial arts. These can help a child’s growth and self-esteem.