Kid choosing between junk food or healthy food
December 10, 2015 | by The Polyclinic

While obesity among American preschoolers has declined in the last decade, obesity rates for older children and adolescents remain at 17 percent. Though the issue can be a challenging one to face, there are ways to support your children and family in becoming healthier and happier.

If you’re concerned about your child’s weight, it’s always a good idea to talk to your child’s doctor. An annual well-child visit can be a good time to discuss the topic. In the meantime, implementing healthy changes into your family’s everyday lifestyle is a great place to start. Try the following five steps to keep your family healthy and active:

Make Exercise a Family Activity

Children are much more likely to take part in physical activities if their parents set the example first, and even small actions count. For example, taking the stairs instead of the elevator keeps the heart pumping and can increase aerobic capacity over time. Try taking the family for a post-dinner walk to keep the metabolism high, or suggest an outside family game night like kickball.

Be Mindful of Eating Routines

Young children benefit from a regular routine.To prevent excessive eating, establish meal and snack times for your family and practice mindful eating. Discourage lengthy snacking during sedentary activities like watching TV. By being mindful of your family’s eating habits, you support the development of healthy relationships with food that will last a lifetime.

Limit Passive Activities

Avoid TVs in the bedroom and limit the total amount of screen-time to two hours every day to encourage children to be more active overall. One tactic to limit screen-time is to use a stopwatch and step away from the device for twenty minutes. This can also prevent eye issues later in life.

Get Your Child Involved in Food Decisions

Use grocery shopping and meal planning to better understand your child’s food preferences. Focus on the produce sections of the grocery store and get your child interested in learning more about fruits and vegetables. You can also take this opportunity to teach your children about the importance of trying new foods and eating a wide variety of foods. By offering healthy options to choose from, you can help your child feel in control of his or her own body and overall health.

Get Creative

Exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Set up an obstacle course in your backyard and encourage each member of your family to take a turn. You can also implement new rules for regular family activities like watching TV, such as no sitting during the commercials.

Encouraging a change in lifestyle for the health of your family, rather than focusing on the numbers on a scale, can help your children make positive health decisions later in life. Your child will model their health habits on the health habits they see their parents practice, so developing your own healthy habits also helps your child.