Health Q&A

6 Ways to Get Children Interested in Healthy Living

August 1, 2017

The South African Department of Health have declared August as Children’s Health Month. If you’re a parent I’m sure there have been times where you’ve begged and bribed your child to eat just a little piece of broccoli or you’ve promised them the world if they would only put down the iPad and play outside for 10 minutes. Well, say goodbye to those bad memories. We’re here to change your life.

Yes, really.

We’ve got the ultimate list of ideas and advice that we guarantee will get your children interested in healthy living.

1. Prepare food together

If your kids are a part of creating their dinner then they’ll be way more curious and inclined to eat it, as well as becoming more interested in food.

If you have a garden, plant herbs and vegetables together. Give your child the responsibility of looking after the produce so they can learn where their food comes from. This is also a great way of getting them outside in the fresh air. Alternatively, take your kids to the supermarket to pick out the ingredients for meals and explain to them where the ingredients come from.

Also, let them get involved with preparing and cooking the food. By doing this, they will see ingredients from start to finish rather than always thinking of food as something that’s readymade.
For more healthy food tips for kids, we recommend taking a look at these tried and tested tips from Julie Burns, a nutritionist and mother to 7-year-old triplets.

2. Allow treats

Sounds crazy right? But, by allowing kids to eat treats occasionally they won’t become forbidden fruit. Ever wanted something so much more after you’ve been told you can’t have it? Well, kids feel the same. Instead express the importance of a balanced diet, which means allowing a few treats now and then.

This also means that your kids will grow up with a good attitude towards food that’s free from urges to binge. If you ban treat food in their childhood, trust us, it will be the first thing on their minds when they have the freedom to buy their own food.

3. Put a cap on screen time

Taking the same approach as treats, TV and computer time shouldn’t be banned but balanced with other activities that don’t involve a screen. Looking at a screen all day makes you inactive which can lead to a wealth of health problems.
Set screen time limits. Once the time is up they have to find a more active pastime to keep them entertained. With clear rules on screen time, children will learn about balance and show an interest in healthier activities.

4. Let them choose dinner

At the beginning of the week, spend some time with the kids planning out the weekly meal plan. Let them think about what they want to eat and encourage them to decide how to make this a balanced meal. By letting them choose the food, you can be almost certain that they will actually like it. Put this on a calendar or a whiteboard so it’s somewhere where the whole family can see it.

You could even be adventurous and have theme nights. Each dinner could be a traditional dish from a different country, which will not only educate them about food but also geography!

5. Make outside play fun

A shocking UK study found that three-quarters of children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates. So, we have some suggestions that should make outside play fun for your little ones.

Try hiding things for them to find. You could even produce a treasure map for the garden to help them seek out hidden treasure. Another idea is to set them challenges. Challenge them to spot 50 birds or to do a timed race. Acknowledge these mini achievements in style by having evening award ceremonies.

Being outside shouldn’t just be for the kids. Get the whole family moving by planning walks, bike rides or even just a big family game of hide and seek. If outside activities are the norm, then children will learn from example and carry this with them for life.

6. Encourage them to talk about their feelings

Sadly, mental health problems affect about 1 in 10 children and young people, with depression thought to be one of the leading causes of disability worldwide.

Emotional wellbeing should be just as important as physical health. From an early age, children should be encouraged to talk about their feelings. So, if something significant does happen, they’ll know how to express their emotions and not feel frustrated.

Encourage them to talk by giving them the time to express themselves and try not to do the talking for them. Simply be there and comfort them, eventually they will reveal how they feel. When this happens don’t trivialise it by saying ‘you’ll be fine, you’ll get over it’. Give them time to really feel that emotion rather than brushing it aside.

Here at Topmed, we offer medical aid options especially for families. If you want to talk about healthy living for you and your family, then please get in touch.