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Tips for Families with Children to Foster Healthier Eating and Activity Habits

By Kim Manfried, RD CDN

  • Plan a family walking day(s) each week at a local mall, park, or around the neighborhood.
  • Wear a low cost fitness tracker or free app on phone for older children to track steps.
  • Look for ways around the house to safely increase activity, such as walking or running in place, jumping jacks, or sit-ups. Try to perform these at commercial breaks during TV time, or perform in 5 to 10 minute intervals during a specific amount of time (such as after meals). Use hula hoops, soccer or basketballs, jump ropes, play hop scotch.
  • Kids can help in the kitchen with age appropriate tasks such as planning meals, help with meal prep and/or cooking meals, help with making shopping lists, and food shopping as a family.
  • Use new recipes to help increase vegetable intake, including spiralized vegetables.
  • Make healthy smoothies which are protein and/or vegetable based.
  • Don’t buy soda and sugar sweetened beverages (do not keep in house). Replace with water.
  • Increase water intake by slicing fresh or frozen fruit or mint in water. Drink flavored non diet waters (such as seltzer).
  • Keep healthier snack options on hand for kids and adults. These should replace high fat and sugar options.
  • Do not use sweets and treats as a reward. Instead, keep low priced stickers, pencils, or small toys such as jump ropes in place of food and sweets.

Snack Ideas:

  • Raw, washed, and ready pre-cut veggies, plain or low fat cream cheese, hummus, low fat dressing
  • Low fat plain yogurt with a variety of add-ins, such as fresh or frozen berries or other small fruit, nuts and seeds, cinnamon, or a favorite low sugar cereal
  • Homemade snack mix using a variety of low sugar cereals, nuts and seeds, or popcorn
  • Low fat individual cheese sticks or wedges
  • Fruit cut up in small portions, fruit cups (drained)
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Rice cakes with avocado, low fat cheese/cream cheese, veggies, or low fat peanut butter
  • Cup of low fat or alternative milk
  • Low carb tortillas with low fat cheese, salsa, or avocado/guacamole
  • No sugar added applesauce
  • Turkey or chicken breast roll-ups (stuffed with low fat cheese, cream cheese, or veggie sticks)

Sometimes small changes make big impacts. Try at least one new change from the list above. Please note: Consult with your child’s pediatrician with any questions or concerns. All activities and food choices should be age appropriate, taking into account any food intolerances or allergies.

Kim Mendel is a Registered Dietician and Diabetes Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at km432@cornell.edu

 

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