Amy Hendel is the author of Fat Families, Thin Families. I had the pleasure of interviewing her at the Book Expo America convention and she gave me these amazing tips for teaching your kids to be healthy.
Healthy Living Tips
for Teens and Kids
- Let them come shopping with you and learn about new fruits and veggies. Slowly teach them to read a food label. Make it a math game.
- Identify whether your child is a grazer, mini-meal eater or square-mealer and go with it.
- Limit TV/video/computer time and replace it with family activities.
- Don’t let your child skip breakfast, and let them be involved in choices.
- Let them see you eating healthy foods.
- Keep exposing them to foods even if it takes awhile to get them interested or willing to taste.
- Bake and broil whenever possible (chicken nuggets, air fries).
- Don’t condemn foods; do challenge portion size or frequency (applies to teens, too).
- Add pureed fruit, ground-up veggies whenever possible (applies to teens. too)
- Always serve a fruit salad and salad with the meal (applies to teens. too)
- Have “grab foods” in the fridge and pantry: cut-up fruit and veggie, ready-to-grab yogurts, string cheese, celery or carrots with bean or hummus, 1% or fat-free small milk containers, small bags of cereal/nuts mix, baked whole grain crackers and small peanut butter packets, grape clusters, low-fat chocolate pudding, tuna sandwich “quarters” on whole grain bread, turkey pinwheels.
- Let young kids help wash fruit, tear lettuce, add spices, fill measuring cups, grease pans with cooking spray, peel eggs, use a pizza wheel. Older kids can prepare simple recipes, use an electric can opener, use a toaster oven with mitts, or a microwave. (See more on this in chapter seven.)
- Get them moving during TV commercials; have a short activity period about 30 minutes after dinner. It can be a short walk, freestyle dance session or quick ball game. Do it with them so you are modeling the behavior.
- When possible cut foods into shapes, kids love it.
- Reward exercise with a special craft, new book or other non-food reward.
- If it has more than 8 grams of sugar per serving, it’s too much.
- Involve them in taste testing and don’t take it personally.
- Invite them into the kitchen or to shop, if they’re willing.
- Try to create healthier home versions of pizza, lasagna, grilled burgers (turkey), grilled chicken, stir-frys.
- Have fruit, salad and easy-to-grab options.
- Expose them to flavored waters.
- Review some of the healthier fast food options with them and explain why you want this program to work.
- Admit to your own poor role modeling, if applicable. Honesty appeals to teens.
- Get them involved in after-school sports or activities, and be there to cheer them on.
- Plan weekend food shopping and exercise activities, but be reasonable and patient.
- Don’t condemn fast food, discuss better choices and frequency of eating.
- Stock lots of healthy condiments and spices.
- Experiment with healthy smoothie recipes (adding protein powder is a boost for a budding athlete).
- Explore ethnic healthy home cooking recipes.
- Get your pediatrician to step in and express a perspective on health or weight and the positive implications of a lifestyle change.