Encouraging Your Kids to Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Posted on Jul 05, 2018


This blog post is a guest blog from Amanda Henderson, a blogger at Safe Children.

It’s so easy these days to let kids slip into an unhealthy pattern of junk food, video gaming and television. Most parents lead very busy lives and sometimes it’s just more convenient to let them do their own thing. That’s especially true of military families, whose parents are often either on duty, overseas or preparing to transfer to a new posting.

Unfortunately, disengaged parents leave a void that kids are apt to fill by following their own inclinations by engaging in unhealthy or even dangerous activities. Make time to encourage children to make good choices and follow a healthy lifestyle. Fortunately, there are many ways to incorporate healthful choices and activities into your busy schedule.

Explain yourself 

Kids are more likely to respond to reason than to a summary orders and coercion. It’s more meaningful to explain the benefits to them of making healthy decisions than it is to bellow, “Because I said so!” Explain why it’s important that your kids eat right and get more exercise, and why an active lifestyle can prevent problems such as obesity and diabetes. Make sure you trust them with the information and that they’ll grasp the need to reduce screen time and increase playtime.

Discuss the dangers of caffeine consumption and why those coffee drinks can be harmful, as well as the threat that drugs and alcohol pose. Talk about how a parent in the military has to stay in good shape and eat right, and how they maintain good health.

Focus on benefits that really matter to young people, that eating well and exercising will help them look trim and healthy and maintain their strength and vitality, which are important points for youngsters who need to keep pace with their peers and schoolmates. Eating a balanced diet will give them the energy to play sports, stay active with their friends, and help keep them from getting sick. Kids hate missing out on fun activities with friends - making good health choices can help them keep the fun train running! That’s an especially important point for children of military families, who often have limited time with friends before their parents are transferred to new duties.

Get them involved

You’re more likely to be successful if you can get the kids involved in planning healthy meals based on vegetables, protein, fruit, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Talk about recipes that emphasize nutrition, fiber and vitamins, and give them a role to play by encouraging their involvement in preparing dinner each day. Let them take turns selecting a physical activity for the entire family to do each weekend and plan something special such as a walking trip at the zoo on occasions when a military parent is off duty.   

Avoid wholesale changes overnight

Incorporate small changes, like including one vegetable with each family meal, or walking or biking to the store once a week instead of driving. Try switching gradually from whole milk to 1 percent, or transition from meals featuring red meat to fish and chicken, and phase in new dishes with each dinner. If your kids favor potato chips or Twinkies at snack time, have them try something more wholesome, such as apples or peanuts.

Keep trying different options until you find something they really enjoy. Make it easy to get their hands on healthy foods by setting out washed fruit like bowls of grapes they can eat at will and start phasing out high-calorie snacks and those with added sugar. Try making unhealthy foods less available by buying them less, but avoid doing it all at once and encouraging anger and resistance. You can even turn grocery shopping into a fun scavenger hunt to encourage healthy eating. As one parent told Plexus, “I let my kids pick out our fruits and vegetables and meal plan with me. By taking them to the store with me they become my “special helper.” All my kiddos, especially the little ones, love to help out where they can and they’re more likely to eat what they picked out.” Another parent even sneaks broccoli into macaroni and cheese made with whole grain pasta and skim milk to appease even the pickiest eater - game changer.

Military families have lots of demands on their time, depending on the nature of the parent’s military duties. Try to take advantage of opportunities for physical activity and healthy eating as a family. Everyone will benefit and you can rest easy knowing you’ve set your children on the path to a happy and healthy life.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com