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Did you know that it’s Every Kid Healthy Week from April 25th to 29th? Mark your calendars!

Each year, one week in April is dedicated to celebrating health at school. During this week, kids learn about healthy living through the food they eat and physical activity initiatives. Healthfulness of the home environment is equally critical for kids as well.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 90% of US children ages 6 to 18 consume too much sodium on a daily basis. Because high blood pressure is associated with high sodium intake, 1 in 6 children ages 8 to 17 already has raised blood pressure. Added sugar consumption has also risen in the recent decade with children having 16% of their total calories come from sugary foods and drinks. This is especially worrisome given the increase in teenagers being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Although parents and guardians may want to take immediate measures to improve their kids’ health, there are a few crucial points to keep in mind. One is to provide the whole family, not just kids, with more healthful opportunities. That way, the healthy choice becomes more familiar and eventually feels like a normal part of life for everyone at home. Another point to consider is not to impose a “special diet” on the child who has health or weight concerns. This can add to any negative self-esteem he might already have. Or if the child doesn’t see his health as a concern, the changes will feel like an unnecessary order from the adults and won’t be taken seriously.

A long-term goal for the whole family could be to foster healthy eating habits through lifestyle changes and include physical activity as a part of daily routines or fun outings. Instead of framing the change as dieting or getting rid of extra calories, take an approach of providing nutritious options more often and more consistently. Also, habits form more successfully if the whole family makes the change together. Simple changes everyone can try are making sure at least one vegetable is served at every meal, relying on fresh fruits for snacks, and injecting movement into the day like doing jumping jacks during TV commercial breaks.

Other tips to create a healthier home environment:

  • Involving kids during grocery shopping and meal prep so they can be a part of the process!
  • Asking kids to choose between 2 kinds of veggies they would like for a meal. Having a say in the decision will empower them and they’ll be more likely to try the veggie they chose!
  • Role-modeling healthy habits such as trying new foods or exercises. More importantly, not talking about these healthy habits as a chore or punishment!
  • Scheduling an outdoor activity as a family once a week or once every 2 weeks such as visiting a local zoo, walking to the city’s library, or starting a game of front yard badminton!

What healthy change do you plan to make with your family?