Healthy Living, Healthy Eating for Kids

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Even before they are born, the health of our children is very important to us as parents. Parents are also beginning to become more aware that the health habits formed in childhood can have a direct impact on our health as adults. For this reason, it is very important to establish proper eating habits and make physical activity a regular part of our daily lives. However our good intentions are often thwarted by a toddler who has thrown his potatoes and carrots on the floor for the umpteenth time or the preschooler who refuses to eat anything but plain pasta. Now-a-days, with all the game systems and tablets that are widely available, it can be hard to convince even a six year old to turn off the screens and get active.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children should have at least one hour of physical activity a day. As a busy mom of three young children, this sounds like a daunting task. I have a hard enough time getting in a half hour for myself, let alone an hour for my kids. But making sure our kids get active is not the same as making ourselves get active. For me, it might mean going for a run or doing a cardio workout. But for kids it can be much simpler than that. It might mean kicking a soccer ball around or riding a bike. They could walk to school, shoot some baskets or go swimming, tobogganing or skating. Physical activity for kids does not necessarily mean exercise. They just need to get out and get active instead of sitting inside staring at a screen. When you view physical activity in these terms, being active for an hour a day becomes an easily attainable goal.

According to the Canada Food Guide, the daily recommended serving for children between the ages of 2 and 13 is: 4-6 servings of vegetable and fruit, 3-6 servings of grain products, 2-4 servings of milk and alternatives and 1-2 servings of meat and alternatives. This is another recommendation that can feel nearly impossible to meet for a busy parent. It certainly doesn't help that there are so many easy, pre-packaged snacks that do nothing to help meet this recommendation. The most difficult thing, that I'm sure all parents have experienced, is that you can't force a child to eat. You certainly can control what you offer your child, making sure you give them plenty of healthy options, but some days, no matter what you do (or how much you bribe), your child is going to be the one who decides whether they eat or not. In my experience, most children tend to go through a 'picky eater' stage. Some go through it as babies and some wait until they're much older. Still others may be picky all the time. I believe that in the end, it all evens out. Kids don't have to have healthy food all the time. It becomes problematic when our 'not-so-healthy' choices outweigh our healthy choices. Although we can't force our children to eat all the healthy food we have chosen for them, we can still continue to offer it and most importantly, model healthy eating ourselves.

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