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Healthy Habits for Kids

Por Eleazar Lara-Pantin, MD, MSc.* -
Healthy Habits for Kids

As children grow and develop, they acquire habits and customs that gradually become a part of what their lifestyle will be. Eating and physical activity habits are fundamental in this process.

A child whose parents are enthusiast readers, TV watchers, and computer users is more likely to adopt a sedentary lifestyle that will impact many esential aspects of his/her life such as:

  • the time spent sitting down,
  • the way of walking, and
  • his/her lack of interest in playing sports or exercising.

The opposite happens with a child that lives with active parents, whose steadfast interest in physical activity forms a part of family life and significantly contributes to making family members enthusiastic about physical activity.

The same happens with eating habits. The family dinner table is by far the best place for developing good eating habits. The simple fact of the family eating together or "each one on his/her own" can play an important role in the process of developing each person's health perspectives.

Although gathering around the table at dinnertime as a family has many benefits, you must keep in mind that bad eating habits can also be easily passed along in this environment.

What really contributes to adopting an unhealthy lifestyle is the way messages are transmitted to kids. For example, reading should be encouraged during childhood. However, we need to be careful because we want to transmit a positive message and not a negative image of parents who spend the entire day sitting down. We want kids to see how their parents frequently enjoy reading a good book, but always in addition to demonstrating an active lifestyle.

Another example: when parents show an obsessive attitude toward working out, children might reject exercise if they associate it to not being able to play or do the things they like.

In addition to the genetic component that influences the risk of obesity, what an individual learns about eating is the most important aspect when it comes to eating habits. This involves processes such as choosing which foods to buy at the supermarket, how to set the table, and how to prepare meals.

Among the Hispanic population, it's very common to place food on the table so that family members can serve themselves more food than what they really should be eating. It's not unusual to serve five or six pieces of succulent chicken for three people, and this certainly gives way to overindulgence with food.

It's very important to encourage children and young people in the family to adopt habits that lead them to build healthy lifestyles, including a balanced diet and proper levels of physical activity.

For those of us who are no longer under our parents' responsibility to create a healthy lifestyle, we must be aware that the issue now lies exclusively in our hands. The quality of life we enjoy in the years to come depends on our decision to do it right now.

If you have to make changes to your lifestyle, it's never too late to start.

*Nutrition Specialist. Vice president of Product Development at DrTango, Inc.


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