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Healthy and Happy Kids

The health and fitness levels of the population of America are quite alarming.  Obesity rates are higher than ever. And not just in adults.  How do we teach our children to live healthy lifestyles?

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being healthy isn't something that's just a good idea.  It's a commandment.  The Word of Wisdom specifies many things we need to do to be healthy.

So how do we teach our children to be healthy?

The number one way is of course to set the example.  Children tend to copy what they see their parents do.  If you are active, they will probably be active.  If you eat healthy, they probably will too.  Be careful in this. If you are obsessed over your weight and are always talking about your latest diet, so will they, whether they need to or not.

Eat dinner together.  It is rare that a child choosing a snack for themselves will chose a fruit or vegetable. Eating dinner together whenever possible can help make sure their diets are well rounded, for at least one meal.  Make healthy snacks available to them at regular intervals throughout the day.

Be active together!  It is so much more fun for everyone when the whole family goes out together.  Find a hike that's appropriate for the ages of your children.  Go canoeing together.  Go on walks.  Blast some music and have dance parties.  Let them invite friends or whatever you need to do to make it fun!  Show them you're willing to do what you are trying to help them do!

Be encouraging.  Support them in their activities.  If your child is playing a sport you don't understand, ask them to explain it to you, or do some research so you can support them without embarrassing them.  Make sure your praise doesn't become based on performance!  Every effort needs kind words, especially the days when things don't go so well.

If a healthy lifestyle is a big change, be patient with your children.  They have a hard time being ripped away from their comfort zone.

Be aware that your children, depending on their ages, have much different food needs than you do.  A healthy child needs a lot of good quality calories to grow.  Even if your child is overweight, don't make them diet with you.  Though if your child's weight is a concern, talk with their doctor to come up with a plan.

As in so many things our kids are facing a tougher battle than we are.  The younger you start, the easier it will be!

What do you do to help your family to eat healthy and be active?


Amy Nelson is a running mom with a cycling husband and two boys.

*Photo via flicker.

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