Building healthy habits in children is a fundamental part of developing a behaviour and lifestyle that will build them into healthy adults. It is at this age that children are the most susceptible to poor eating behaviours and take on parental diet composition. Hence, having great healthy habits as a child may help to offset many potential dietary related chronic diseases and improve wellbeing in life.
Developing healthy habits for children involves a few key influences that as a parent you can manage. The driving influences are taste development, how food is presented, how parents and caregivers act and behave regarding healthy behaviours. Taste behaviours and preferences are largely learnt, which can be seen from cultural populations. Repeat exposure to a variety of flavours can lead to a greater acceptance to foods and new flavours. Also, by making sure your child's eating environment is positive, welcoming and doesn’t have any negative influences can support healthy eating routines.
Another healthy habit for children is physical activity. An Australian survey conducted by the department of health showed results that one in ten children performed the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Encouraging children to get involved in activities outside and in teams not only helps with physical health but will also help build on social skills and absorbing some of that much needed vitamin D. Making sure the activities are enjoyable and the child has an interest to help build on the habit.
A important foundation in helping create healthy habits in kids is asking them what they enjoy, they may not always understand the question or respond with an out of this world cue. But you as a parent or caregiver can help create that world and build on the enjoyment they have for it. By maintaining a positive environment and language with children you only help build self-esteem, curiosity and imagination. Also allowing them to try new things and if they don’t like it make sure to ask questions and understand what it was that they didn’t like or what may have given the negative context.
Other points to remember in build healthy habits include:
- Eat colourful
- Don’t skip breakfast
- Read every day
- Drink water not, sugar sweetened beverages
- Play games
- Enjoy family dinners and time together
- Stay positive
- Explore being outside
- Limit screen time
- Make a game out of reading food labels
- Try, try and try again!
Children will mimic the adults in their life, so leading by example is a great why for you to not only help your own healthy lifestyle but help imprint a way of life for your children. Doing things as a family and always remembering to keep a positive mindset helps create behaviours and the understanding and want for healthy habits and a healthy life.