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8 House Rules for Healthier Kids

Written by: Anika Christ, RD, CISSN, CPT - Life Time Fitness

September marked the second anniversary of the National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month (COAM). Last year’s national cause drew incredible amounts of attention to an epidemic in which more than 23 million American children and teenagers are overweight or obese. Many believe this is a generation of children who are not expected to outlive their parents. 

This is a time to not only gain awareness of the lifelong challenges obesity presents for a child; it's also a time you and your family can make real changes through the support of many resources available online, in your communities and at your Life Time.  The challenge? Start practicing habits that encourage your children to adopt healthy lifelong behaviors in effective ways. Reversing this epidemic starts at home.

Below are 8 “house rules” for your family to start actively practicing today. Set a goal to establish these everyday habits by the end of September. 

Every child, every day should:

Get at least 8 hours of sleep, no exceptions!  Children and adults who don’t get enough sleep are at higher risk for obesity. Have regular bedtimes and wake-up times for everyone in the household and stick to them. 

Drink half their body weight in ounces of water. Make sure they have a stainless steel bottle to drink from during the school day. 

Eat at least one meal with their family each day at the kitchen table. After-school activities and sports tend to take over, at the expense of sit-down meals.  

Engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Don’t rely on your kids Phy Ed class for this; the average school age student only gets 100 minutes of exercise a week!  Encourage your child to move their body after school, whether it’s taking up a sport, a dance class, skipping rope, riding bike, or some other vigorous activity.

Keep screen time to two hours or less.  We are watching more television and computer screens than ever before. Too much screen time lays the foundation for a sedentary life and can alter the quality of your child’s sleep. Set a timer when screen time begins and allot a specific amount of time. Keep it consistent! Nickelodeon has created a “blackout” for the last seven years to encourage kids to get away from the television and play!

Eat a high quality breakfast, including protein and fiber.  Don’t send kids off on their day without a solid breakfast and don’t subscribe to the idea that “anything is better than nothing”.  The majority of marketed quick-fix breakfasts out there won’t keep them full or provide them with adequate energy.  For better breakfast ideas, check out Back to School Breakfasts

Just play.  Today’s average child has a lot going on and can get stressed just like adults. Kids tend to be overcommitted with homework and extracurricular activities.  Make sure your child has time to just be a child! Encourage them to play a game or read a book for fun, even if it’s just for a short time. Play with them as often as you can, too.

Eat at least 3 vegetables per day. The average American child gets plenty of fruit, but veggie consumption seems to present an ongoing challenge. Vegetable produce contains the most nutrition per calorie, fiber to keep your children full, and the vitamins and minerals to support metabolism and growth. Model for your children — let them see you eating this food group daily. I suggest the average child should try a food at least seven (7) times before being allowed to decide whether it’s something he or she likes. 

If your family can accomplish these house rules over the next month, assess how what worked and where improvements could be made — and continue your efforts into October and so on.  You’ll begin to shape habits that make a healthy way of life.

And don’t end the progression with these rules; continue to encourage healthy habits with your children by including them in grocery shopping and meal preparation, signing the family up for fun walks/runs in the community, and spending quality time together as a family. Good luck!

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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Reader Comments (8)

I have some great ad ons to this.

TV-- I grew up without tv during the week. It was on for Friday movie night. and a little bit of Saturday morning cartoons.
Commercials have so many offensive scenes anymore that it's hard to filter every minute/sec of every day. Heck... i caught myself in shock when I saw a nude womans picture on PBS-- it was some inspector show.... NO FILTER!!! Turn the TV off. Everyone benefits.

TRYING NEW FOODS- I read somewhere that you keep trying.. sometimes it takes 17 times before they will eat it. My son at age 4 just started eating tomatoes. My kids love salads. It just takes persistance, patience and cleverness in how the food is introduced.
the best way for kids to try foods.... have them help you cook it, grow it. get a library book on it... etc.

BREAKFAST FOOD- Kamut.. someone introduced me to this stuff and its amazing. It tastes like sugar smacks... without the coating. My kids love it. It has it's own nutty sweetness. Its got great percentage of protien and fiber... Protien and fiber both help you feel full and satisfied.

September 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjen

Half their weight in water seems high. A sixty lb kid would drink 30 lbs of water a day? 3.6 gallons? Maybe not.

September 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDarren

In ounces. So 30 ounces :)

September 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterApril

I have another recommendation for breakfast. I used to hate finding something good all my kids would eat. I make them a "rainbow" smoothie every morning. I use a combination of juice and fruit and yogurt, the only rule is we have to get every color of the rainbow. Here's my basic recipe, substitute as you wish :-D

Rainbow Smoothie
1 ripened banana (this is crirical for a thickish smoothie)
1 cup of juice. I use 1/2 each of OJ and Acai berry juice,or just use OJ
1 peach peeled and pitted (or use frozen)
6-9 frozen strawberries
1 cup baby spinach
1 container of fiberOne blueberry yogurt (i like it for the protein and high fiber)
1 good sqirt of lime juice... Dunno why but this is my secret ingredient :-)

Blend till super smooth. Your kids will love it and you will feel like such a great mom (or dad) :-D

September 20, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterelizabeth

So a 100lbs. Kid is suppose to consume 50 lbs. Of water daily? That seems excessive.

September 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBjh

Sorry for the mistake. It should have read half their body weight in ounces of water. It has now been corrected.

September 21, 2011 | Registered CommenterLifeTime WeightLoss

It's great you're looking for alternatives for your kids. While whole fruits are better in moderation than a lot of the junk kids eat, the recipe above is really pretty high in sugar and low in protein. I just ran it through a nutrition database, and the shake recipe you outlined provides 389 calories, 2.3 grams of fat, 9 grams of protein and 91 grams of carbohydrate. It's a lot of carbohydrate, and very little fat and protein. As Anika mentions above, protein is critical for satiety, development and managing blood sugar. Fat is also important for kids and fat actually has the effect of helping people feel full longer as well. I'd really recommend cutting down on the amount of fruit used and add a scoop of protein powder, and even some peanut butter or coconut milk for some extra fat. It might not taste as sweet, but it will be a healthier alternative.

September 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTom Nikkola

RE: the recipe above, I looked up the yogurt and it has 3g of protein, that's not much at all, it also has aspartame which is an excitotoxin. Not good for a kids (or adults) brain. I would consider swapping out the yogurt for a plain unsweetened greek yogurt. Greek yogurt has more protein.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVanessa

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