Kids_shave_iceThe goal of every parent is to raise a happy, healthy child. We all want them to be as active as possible, eat the healthiest of foods and become comfortable in social situations.

How do we ensure that our children are eating enough vegetables? How do we make sure they are spending enough quality time away from the video games? There are many ways to shape our children into the happy, healthy children we desire. Here’s a few tips to aid you in getting there.

Healthy Eating

You can not expect your children to be eating healthy if you are not also doing so. Show your children what healthy choices are by being a good role model and making them yourself. After dinner when you want something sweet, make the choice to have fruit. If you are craving some chocolate, choose a piece of high quality dark chocolate and pair it with fruit, like strawberries or nuts. At dinner, take seconds of the vegetables rather than the bread, meat or other less healthy choices.

Get your day off on the right path by making sure you begin with a healthy breakfast. Research has found that children who consume a breakfast that includes protein, Omega-3 fats, calcium, iron and fiber will do better at school. Their overall health will be better as well, which means fewer days off from school. Ditch that bowl of sugary cereal and serve up a hard-boiled egg, a piece of high fiber toast, fresh fruit and a glass of milk. Or make a fruit smoothie and pair it with a whole-grain waffle with almond butter on it.

To keep your kids eating healthy, get them involved in the process. Have them help you plan the menu, then shop and cook it together. The amount of time they have invested and the fun they have had with you will make the meal superb in their mind and much more easy to consume.

If you want to eat healthier, you must avoid dining out. Sometimes that’s easier said that done so save dining out for when you really didn’t expect it to be a crazy evening (ie. an emergency trip to the ER for a broken bone) but not every Thursday night because there’s practice. If you know your schedule, you know enough to plan a healthy dinner. When you are running around completing errands, make sure you are carrying snacks in the car. Plan ahead and put them into individual bags (do this when you get back from the grocery store so you are ready to grab them as you go out the door.).

It’s important to remember that healthy eating is a lifestyle not a chore so be sure to splurge once in awhile. Have that slice of cake for birthdays. Make a surprise trip to the ice cream shop on a warm summer’s evening. Bake that pie for National Pie day, or just because a sweet once in awhile is not a bad thing. Just remember that you can’t do it every night.

Active Lifestyle

In order to make anything last in your life, you have to get some enjoyment out of it. Activity is no different. If you want to encourage activity in children, you need to make activity fun! Participate in activities that the whole family can enjoy. Walk together while talking about science and nature. Take up a fun activity like Geocaching. In my family, we call it treasure hunting and set a goal to find a certain number of “treasures” each year. If the weather is nice, spend the day outside having a family Olympics. Find unique, fun ways to be active so that even the most reluctant child has a good time.

It’s so important that it must be said again; be a good role model. If you want your children to enjoy activity, then you need to show them how much you enjoy it. Kick a soccer ball around with them while you are laughing and having a good time. Let them see you taking walks or exercising in the gym. Talk to them about why activity is so vital for your body. If you spend your weekends at home on the computer or playing video games, you can only expect your children to do the same thing.

Video games, television, the internet and every other electronic device are a fun piece of technology but they are keeping you from an activity lifestyle. If you want to increase the activity level of your family, you will need to limit the use of electronics. Unplug for one weekend every month and find alternative games to play. Or make a rule that there is no video games during the week.

To get those reluctant movers involved, find a way to pair electronic usage with activity. The Xbox Kinect has some great games that can get your kids moving a bit. If weather prohibits you from being outside, get your activity in by dancing together in a game of Just Dance or jumping hurdles while playing Kinect Adventures (a family favorite in my house). The first time my son played Kinect Adventures, he was having such a blast that he didn’t even realize he was exercising. In fact he said “I’m having so much fun but why am I out of breath?” The activity was hidden in the fun!

Raising happy, healthy children is easier said than done, I know that as much as the next parent. But taking these steps puts towards that goal. Don’t discount how much of an impact a little change can make. If your life needs an overhaul, pick two of these and get to work. Add in more as they become habit. Eventually you (and me too) will be right where you want to be.

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About

Jessica Streit is a freelance writer, parent and graduate student. She has made many poor financial decisions, including attending college funded solely by student loans. She blogs about those poor choices and overcoming a large amount of debt in her blog, The Debt Princess.

24 Comments Jessica Streit on Jan 28th 2013

24 Responses to “How to Raise Happy, Healthy Children”

  1. I have completely changed my lifestyle when my 2 yr old was born. I have lost 85 lbs. and gotten active. I promised to be my best and set a good example for her. I now have a 9 month old daughter too. I am excited to show them healthy choices in food and activity! Love this!

    • Good for you Jules!

      I’m working on it too. I have a child who is overweight (I have joint custody & they eat really poorly at their dad’s house!) and I’m trying to set a good example. The good news is that he loves all foods and being active. I just need to change our bad habits a bit and encourage him to continue it all when he’s not with me.

  2. I’ve found that things are easier if you get them when they are young. Once my kids could eat solids, we had them try everything we parents were eating. Naturally, my kids developed a dislike for some things, but they really like most vegetables and fruits. They’ll ask for them regularly over other snacks.

  3. Integrator says:

    You make a good point about needing to set good examples for the kids. I know ours have seen us on laptops and ipads far too much for that to be a good example in any way. That isn’t doing the right thing in terms of setting them on the right track to be more active and less dependent on electronics. We need to move more of our browsing activities till after they go to bed.

  4. Erin Pascal says:

    Thank you for sharing this great post!
    Indeed, children learn by imitation and us parents are the number one influence in our children’s world. The best way to teach our children is to model, more than just verbalize the actions we desire them to adopt.

  5. Great post on raising children. I know how difficult it is to raise happy and healthy children, because no matter how much we want to raise them the way we think best, they have a different opinion of what they want that would make them happy. Also, as adults we need to show them good examples. We cannot just tell to not do something that we ourselves are doing.

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  7. Mich says:

    Excellent post Jess, I find that the hardest part of being a parent is being a good role model. It’s not easy to change those bad habits sometimes :)

  8. Great post, with my own kid on the way shortly I am really wanting to make sure I am atleast aiming in the right direction as far as parenting goes. Thanks for sharing your opinion!

    • You are very welcome. If you have a new one on the way, my personal advice for you is to start them eating the same things you are eating (none of that typical “toddler food”) and make sure what you are eating is super healthy. You’ll be setting them on the right path for healthy eating!

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  11. Nunzio Bruno says:

    So I’m not a parent yet but I loved this post. Mainly because sometimes I feel like a big kid :) I think you have a ton of great points for any one that want’s to live a better/more balanced lifestyle. Your post also makes for a healthier financial lifestyle because of the meal, lifestyle, activity, and home planning that needs to be done. It’s just a win on so many levels!

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  15. CF says:

    Even adults would benefit from ditching cereal. It’s so expensive and really doesn’t fill you up on the mornings. We usually have a quick hot breakfast with fruit and some sort of protein or cheese.

    • Mich says:

      Agree CF but it really depends on the cereal. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Muslix, pretty healthy cereal.

    • I’m all about a big bowl of steel cut oats mixed with some almond butter for breakfast. Sadly, my children are not. I have limited their sugary cereal a great deal, it’s only a weekend treat now. They start their mornings with either whole wheat toast (paying close attention to fiber count) topped with natural peanut butter and some fruit or an oatmeal muffin that I make at home.

      I can only hope some day they’ll understand the benefits of oatmeal and enjoy it like I do.