Children Recommendations for Optimal Health and Wellness
Keep Carbohydrates Portions as a side dish : Limit amount of processed foods, often high in carbohydrates. You can start by focusing on portion size and food variety rather than on counting calories. Remember that you are a reference point to your child. It is recommended that parent and child:
- Limit sugary drinks. Favor water to hydrate.
- If you would like juice, have a small cup 4-6 ounces of freshly squeezed juice containing fiber. Many store-bought brands remove all the fiber. It takes 2-4 oranges to make one 8 oz cup of juice.
- Serve pasta, macaroni and pizza as a side dish not as the whole meal.
- Instead of cereal and milk for breakfast, serve a small cup of steel-cut oats or barley. There is a significant amount of fiber in these foods.
- Try to eat at least 3 or 4 servings of fruit and vegetables a day.
- Use the Healthy Eating Plate (Below)
Keep Healthy Thoughts Flowing: A thriving child is one that is able to express his/her needs in a peaceful manner; with whom a parent practices active listening. It is recommended that the parent and child:
- Wait until the child is engaged with you before starting to talk to him/her. Avoid yelling from across the room.
- Schedule one-on-one time to perform an activity that requires teamwork and interdependence.
- Describe the behavior that you would like to change – rather than use name-calling or blaming.
- Play board games together and switch up the teams.
- Have monthly family meetings to discuss recurring themes and schedule a fun activity together afterwards. Try around-the-table interactions like “high-lows” and encouragement/appreciate rounds.
Get Plenty of Sleep: Sleep is a critical part of optimal health and weight. Studies have supported poor sleep to be a cause of obesity and unhealthy eating, not to mention affecting the immune system. It is recommended that a child:
- Go to sleep at the same time each day for the same duration of sleep. Teenagers 14-17 need at least 8-10 hours; children 6-13 need at least 9-11 hours. Adults require about 7-8 hours nightly.
- Complete all major physical activities and technology at least 2 hours before bedtime. Avoid any meals for at least 3 hours before bedtime.
- Have an 30 minutes to an hour of “wind-down” time before bedtime.
- Sleep in a dark room or a room with a dim night-light.
- Avoid excessively long, hot baths – which can keep a child up at night.
Involve Your Child in the Process: Children thrive for independence or at least being involved in decisions. Positive behaviors can be reinforced with group activities, as well as confidence and trust. It is recommended that parent and child:
- Have a family cooking night, where everyone can participate in the meal-making.
- Go grocery shopping together and have the child pick his/her favorite fruits and vegetables.
- Instruct your child how to prepare basic meals from scratch, so they can understand how foods can be mixed together to improve the taste.
- Give your adolescent a shopping checklist to get the items and have him/her make any additional suggestions.
Keep Active: Physical inactivity is a significant predictor of Childhood obesity. Think of physical activity good for the brain and the body. An active body means that the brain has been stimulated — this promotes less stress, better decisions, better sleep and a healthier body.
- Make a once a week a family outing to a local park. Tie it in with an activity there – “wild-life viewing”, nature scavenger hunt, etc.
- Limit screen time to no more than 1 to 2 hours a day. Make it after the chores, the outdoor activities or the playtime has been completed.
- Children and teenagers should get at least 1 hour of moderate to vigorous activity daily.
- Encourage walking to local places or the use of bicycles.
Remember that your child is actively learning from what s/he observes from you. Lead by example.