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Most parents would agree that there is nothing more important to them than the health of their children, probably not even their children's grades in Music, Gym, and Math. In fact, most parents would profess to want what is best for their children's health. However, the rising incidence of child obesity in the United States is proof that it is difficult to implement this ideal.
To help you along, here are 5 steps that you can take to promote better health for your children:
First, make healthy eating a part of your family's lifestyle. Provide nutritious choices for meals or snacks. Depending on your child's preferences, experts recommend three meals and 2 or 3 snacks a day. Maximize your child's intake of fruits and vegetables. You must limit fat and sugar, so this means you must limit your family's consumption of fast food. Part of healthy eating is also taking as many meals together as possible. Studies show that kids who are left to eat alone are more prone to unhealthy eating and obesity. However totally banning junk food may also intensify your child's desire for it, so let your child have a treat or two in moderation.
Second, encourage physical family activities. To free up some time for physical family bonding, limit your child's TV and video game time to two hours a day. Plan to have 30 minutes of physical play as a family three times a week. Go for a bike ride together. Play some soccer in the yard. Take a walk after dinner, instead of depositing yourselves in front of the television. Physical activity lessens the risk of heart, lung and bone disease, and may even help your child be better at Music, Gym and Math.
Third, protect your child from disease with proper hygiene and immunizations. Take her to the doctor when she is ill, or when she's due for a visit. Do not administer any drugs without consulting with the doctor first. At home, make sure she washes her hands often - particularly after touching pets, playing outside, going to the bathroom, after sneezing and before eating. Teach her to soap her palms, the top portions of her hands, in between fingers and under her fingernails. Some experts recommend that hand washing must be accompanied with the "Happy Birthday" song, ending only when the song ends. Use an anti-bacterial soap.
Fourth, encourage your child to consume plenty of water. Some experts say 8 glasses, some say as much as your child wants. The important thing is to keep your child away from sugary drinks that can rot her teeth, raise her blood sugar level, and make her more likely to have problems with diabetes or obesity. Your child may protest at first, but she will soon get used to it. The craving for sugar passes when you don't give in to it. To prevent your child's desire or curiosity for flavored drinks from increasing, you may agree to let her have it once a week.
Fifth, set a good example. It will be close to impossible to correct your child's bad habits if you haven't corrected yours. Let your child see that you are making healthy choices in terms of what to eat, drink, and how to spend your free time. When she sees that choosing fruits over cookies is second nature to you, it will soon be second nature to her. If you take her out on walks after dinner and use that time to bond with her, before sending her off to do her homework in Music, Gym and Math, she will soon prefer your company over that of her favorite cartoon.