• Creating a Healthy Lifestyle for Kids: A Guide for Parents

    Image for kids and exercise article Kids need guidance to make the right choices when it comes to what to eat and how to spend their time. The patterns that your child develops now can affect him into adulthood. That is why it is so important to help your child develop a healthy lifestyle at a young age.
    What can parents do? As a parent, you have a huge influence over your child’s life. If you eat healthy foods and take time to exercise, you increase the chance that your child will adopt these habits.
    What if you are not sure how to help your child eat better or be more physically fit? No problem! Here are guidelines to promote a healthy and fit lifestyle.


    Your child can take an active role in his nutrition! Get him involved in all of the stages of healthy eating:

    Planning Meals

    MyPlate is a government initiative to encourage healthy eating. While planning meals with your child, use MyPlate as a guide to help you include the basic food groups:
    • Fruits—Whether it is a fresh banana, raisins, or a glass of 100% fruit juice, there is sure to be a fruit option that your child likes!
    • Veggies—Does your child like raw carrots and celery? Or maybe string beans? If your child has not found a vegetable that he really enjoys eating, remember that there are many to choose from!
    • Grains—Wheat, rice, and oats fall into this group. Encourage your child to choose whole grains instead of refined (or processed) grains.
    • Protein—Chicken, black beans, and tuna are just a few healthy sources of protein for your child.
    • Dairy—Fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese are great additions to your child’s diet.


    Have your child help you on your next trip to the grocery store! Use this as a chance to reinforce the MyPlate basics. For example, encourage your child to pick out new fruits and veggies to try.
    If your child is older, teach him how to read food labels, paying attention to information like serving size and calories. Your child can also benefit from learning how to scan the ingredients. For example, is his favorite cereal made from whole wheat or refined grains?
    What about when your child is reaching for cookies to add to the cart? Try to highlight that it is okay to have special treats every so often. But there are better choices, like fruits and veggies, to have on a daily basis.

    Preparing Meals

    While preparing the meal, involve your child. Even young children can take part, whether it be putting lettuce in a bowl or putting bread on the table. Older children can take the lead in cooking the main dish.

    Eating Together

    Now that the meal is ready, sit down and enjoy it! Have a dining area away from the TV so that you can have some quality time with your family. Encourage your child to eat slowly and to taste each healthy bite.

    Physical Fitness

    Make fitness part of your family’s routine. On a daily basis, have your child strive for at least 60 minutes of physical activity. This should be a combination of aerobic exercise (eg, running), muscle strengthening (eg, push-ups), and bone strengthening (eg, jumping). To make physical activity fun, incorporate the activity into games. If your child is having fun, he will be more likely to want to exercise again.
    You can emphasize the importance of fitness in your child’s life in many ways, for example:
    • Instead of watching TV after dinner, go for a bike ride or play in the park.
    • Plan an active weekend! Hiking trips and beach days are inexpensive and fun ways to exercise.
    • If your child has decided to join a sports team, encourage him. Not only will he be exercising, he will also be learning social skills.
    • What if your child is not interested in sports? There are many other options, like dancing, yoga, karate… You may want to present your child with a few activities and find out which one he would like to try.
    By teaching your child about proper nutrition and exercise, you help to build the foundation for a healthy adulthood. Remember that you are a role model! If you eat right and are physically active, then this encourages your child to do the same.


    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/

    ChooseMyPlate.gov http://www.choosemyplate.gov/


    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/

    Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/


    Aerobic, muscle- and bone strengthening: what counts? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/what%5Fcounts.html. Updated March 30, 2011. Accessed September 9, 2011.

    Food groups: dairy. ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/foodgroups/dairy.html. Updated June 14, 2011. Accessed September 9, 2011.

    Food groups: fruits. ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/foodgroups/fruits.html. Updated June 21, 2011. Accessed September 9, 2011.

    Food groups: grains. ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/foodgroups/grains.html. Updated June 21, 2011. Accessed September 9, 2011.

    Food groups: protein foods. ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/foodgroups/proteinfoods.html. Updated June 8, 2011. Accessed September 9, 2011.

    Food groups: vegetables. ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/foodgroups/vegetables.html. Updated June 21, 2011. Accessed September 9, 2011.

    Healthy lifestyles for kids. Florida Hospital for Children website. Available at: http://www.healthy100kids.org/kids/healthy-lifestyles. Accessed September 9, 2011.

    Help your child grow up healthy and strong. US Department of Education website. Available at: http://www2.ed.gov/parents/academic/health/growhealthy/growhealthy.pdf. Accessed September 9, 2011.

    Helping your child: tips for parents. Weight-control Information Network website. Available at: http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/child.htm. Updated January 2007. Accessed September 9, 2011.

    How much physical activity do children need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/children.html. Updated March 30, 2011. Accessed September 9, 2011.

    Making physical activity a part of a child’s life. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/getactive/children.html. Updated February 16, 2011. Accessed September 9, 2011.

    Parents can play vital role in encouraging children’s active, healthy lifestyles. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/youthcampaign/pressroom/PDF/6.2.07-ParentsPlayRoleBG.pdf. Accessed September 9, 2011.

    Preventing childhood obesity: tips for parents. New York State Department of Health website. Available at: http://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/nutrition/resources/obparnts.htm. Accessed September 9, 2011.

    Promoting a healthy lifestyle. National Food Service Management Institute website. Available at: http://nfsmi-web01.nfsmi.olemiss.edu/%28X%281%29%29/documentlibraryfiles/PDF/20080610020433.pdf. Published 2004. Accessed September 9, 2011.

    US Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s vision for a healthy and fit nation 2010. Office of the Surgeon General website. Available at: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/obesityvision/obesityvision2010.pdf. Published 2010. Accessed September 9, 2011.

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