Health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being. A healthy lifestyle begins with you and it is never too early or late to start leading by example. You are your child’s number one role model and if you long for them to lead a healthy way of life then you must adopt one yourself. I often hear people say they can’t afford to eat and live healthily but in truth convenience & processed foods, especially those aimed at children, are more expensive. It is much cheaper to buy fresh ingredients and prepare meals yourself. There is also no need for expensive gym memberships- walk the dog, go for a 10 minute jog or even dance around the kitchen with your child!
A healthy attitude to food and eating is absolutely vital when it comes to living well. From the very beginning it is really helpful to introduce different tastes and textures to your six month old while weaning. Introduce a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables and avoid processed, salty and sugary food & drinks. Allow your child to squeeze their own juice, help with food shopping and preparation. Including your child in food choices fosters an ownership and understanding of where food comes from. You could also encourage them to grow their own fruit & vegetables even if it’s just one tomato plant.
Healthy food choices don’t have to be challenging especially if you are a very busy household. Just take bananas and avocados as examples. Every banana is a super-food packed with potassium, manganese, fibre and vitamin C supporting sleep, immune function and absorption of calcium. Avocados are nature’s perfect food and contain more vitamins and minerals than any other fruit. They also contain high concentrations of monounsaturated or ‘good’ fats which are vital for healthy brain development.
Food should be fun too so try not to limit your child’s palate. Let them choose their own combinations of food. Just because we may not like a certain food doesn’t mean our child won’t… tastes are all part of learning & life’s experiment and should be encouraged. Who knows you could be cultivating Ireland’s next Michelin star rated chef!
2. Social Well-being
Try to eat together as a family at least once a day so eating and food choices can be enjoyed and seen as a social gathering as well as a normal part of life. It is a good time to encourage discussion amongst you and your children to eke out any worries or concerns & chat about achievements from the day. This also gives you the opportunity to lead by example and use the chance to teach your children about food choices, healthy portion sizes as well as socialising.
Getting your children out and about in the fresh air helps them become aware of the world around them and benefits them in becoming more self-aware. It also encourages communicating in-person with other children and adults. Playing with your children or encouraging sports involvement not only helps instil a healthy lifestyle, but it also helps them develop coordination, teamwork and important social skills they can’t learn by sitting in front of a television or computer screen.
4. Encourage and support
Encouragement and support are so important when trying to help your child in choosing a healthy way of life. Talking positively and rewarding their good behaviour helps reinforce healthy habits. This helps build your child’s self-confidence and can help nurture a strong character.
5. Make healthy fun!
Children love to have fun and will gravitate towards people and activities that make them laugh and be happy. A healthy lifestyle should be just this. Don’t worry about the rain…put on your wellies and jump in muddy puddles!
Allow a certain amount of goodies and choose appropriate times for television and computer games to enjoy together as a family. It is good to do things in moderation as disallowing treats entirely only makes us crave them further.
Above all a healthy and safe family is what parents wish for, and having peace of mind (heaven forbid) if one of the family needs medical assistance is essential. Health insurance from GloHealth gives you this peace of mind. Their family plans provide excellent family cover, with Kids health insurance from €130 a year on their Net More 100 plan. See http://healthinsurance.glohealth.ie/net-100-plan/
Written by: Caroline Sheils;Health Expert with www.familyfriendlyhq.ie