Are your kids always running around? Now is the time to take advantage of their energy and talk with them about the benefits of lifelong fitness and good nutrition. Help your children develop positive attitudes toward healthy lifestyles now, and they’ll be more likely to carry healthy habits with them into adulthood. According to the document 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, children and adults should engage in physical activities for 60 minutes each day. This is especially important for young children and adolescents–to ensure they continue to build strong bones and muscles. Try activities such as jumping rope and dancing to keep your family excited about exercise. Choose one or two activities to participate in each day. One simple activity you can do together is to take a walk after dinner. Walking is an excellent way to help digest a meal and strengthen muscles, and it provides an opportunity to share about each other’s day.

List the activities on your calendar and mark off each day’s activities together so everyone can look forward to the next day’s activities. As with any type of exercise you begin, it’s important to consider the ages and current fitness levels of all participants. Then you can work toward increasing the intensity and duration of different activities. For example, during the first week, your family might take 30-minute walks each night after dinner, followed by dancing to your child’s favorite CD in the living room. The next week, increase the time spent walking and pick up the dancing pace a bit. One way to track your family’s fitness goals is to write them down and put them on the refrigerator or in some other highly visible location. Review your goals periodically. After a goal has been met, set a new goal to work toward. Remember: The most important goal is for all family members to participate in physical activities regularly, so it’s important that any goals you set are attainable and that everyone is motivated to work toward them.

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Children need adults to teach them about foods that are healthy for their bodies as well as to model eating healthy foods. Talking about good nutrition with children can be as simple as explaining the need to eat foods from different food groups to ensure their bodies receive the different vitamins and minerals needed to stay healthy. Create menus with your kids that include foods that are healthy and that everyone enjoys. Then, take your kids shopping and let them locate different foods and teach them how to read food labels. Get active. Remember to participate in some type of physical activity or activities for a total of at least 60 minutes each day. Have fun. Your kids are much more likely to participate in physical activities that are fun, so make sure everyone enjoys the time spent together. Eat healthy. Eat fewer foods that are high in fat and calories, and more foods that benefit the body, such as fruits and vegetables. Involve the entire family in selecting and preparing meals so everyone understands how to make healthy food choices.

An average size child, ages 4-12 actually need about the same amount of calories as an adult, between 1200-1600 calories. However, kids are also growing at different rates, and sometimes they’ll need more food than others. After you teach them first about the quality of food they are eating, the only thing left about the quantity of food is to teach them about balanced eating. When my kids want seconds or thirds, they are welcome to have them. We don’t believe in restricting them, as they are better at listening to their bodies, and sometimes are truly hungry. However, we do require that they eat their second helpings in proportion with all the food groups. In order to have a second helping of grains and proteins, they are also required to take seconds of their vegetables or fruit. The Choose MyPlate graphic illustrates this perfectly. So, the challenge – Make half your plate fruits and vegetables, and kids will get all the nutrients they need without going overboard on calories! It’s one thing to get our children to eat fresh, nutrient dense foods, but it’s a whole new ball game to get that food in front of them.

On even our best planned weeks of placing everything on the calendar, and utilizing the Super Healthy Kids meal plans, there are going to be days when there is truly not enough time. • There is nothing wrong with a great lowsugar, high-fiber cereal for breakfast. Most kids can “make” this themselves. There are plenty of delicious recipes for these on our site and they are loaded with nutrition. • A personal favorite of my sons, and the easiest lunch ever, is the basic PB&J. All of which are in single serving containers and are truly able to be tossed together quickly. • Give nature’s “fast-food” priority over all healthy snacks; such as bananas, apples and grapes. Place them on the counter in a beautiful basket and it’s not only a quick snack, but an appealing way to add more color to your family’s plate. • Make a homemade granola mix at the beginning of the week.

Split it up and place individual serving sizes into your preferred storage container. • Precut veggies and put them in zip lock When you are short on time Another idea, and a personal favorite of mine is breakfast for dinner! Or, what about lunch for dinner? Just because the dictionary says these meals are served at certain times of the day does not mean that you have to follow that rule. Just be sure it’s colorful and each meal has a fruit and a vegetable! • Use and abuse that crock pot! It’s amazing what can be thrown in there at the beginning of the day and what it will turn out to be at dinner time. • Keep your favorite frozen vegetables and blends in the freezer at all times. They can be steaming on the stove while you go through homework or make last minute phone calls. • Cook more of your favorite proteins when a recipe calls for them.

Chicken for instance, can always be chopped up and thrown in with those steamed veggies. Grab an apple too, and its dinner in a pinch! How do I encourage my child to eat healthy? Now that you know WHAT you are going to feed your kids, many of you are asking, OK, now how do we encourage our family to eat this food? We believe that every family and every child is different. What worked for my kids, may not work for yours. For many parents, a child who is a picky eater can cause a lot of anxiety. The first thing to realize is that being a picky eater is a normal part of a child’s development. It is common for parents to be concerned about whether their child is eating enough, or eating enough of the right types of foods. If your child is growing and is active, then there is probably very little to worry about. Even if your child does not eat particularly well on one day, keep in account all of the days during the rest of the week that he/she ate well. We believe in the philosophy called the ‘Feeding Relationship’.

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