It is very important that children have a healthy diet and maintain physical activity. Here are some of the ways in which you can encourage this within your family.
Fruit and vegetables
To increase your child’s interest and appetite for vegetables, it is a great idea to involve them in the recipe searching and shopping stages. By doing this together your child will become aware of everything that is available and can choose a preference in terms of recipe/ingredients. Your child will enjoy having a say in what your family eats, and you can make a challenge out of trying new types of food.
A similar approach can be used for fruit: take time to explore the supermarkets and talk to your child about all the different types of fruit that exist. Make it a challenge to try as many fruits as possible and listen to what your child says about each one. When they tell you what they like, you could start a game in which you could include fruit in different forms including cereal, fruit bowls or a make your own ice-lolly.
We understand that it is not possible for many parents, but try and use any opportunity to involve your children in the food shop, as this will give them an idea of where their meals are coming from and it can also spark an interest in a particular food item that they like the look of. The supermarket will open their eyes to many new products, encouraging them to try more, whilst having a hand in the decision making. Sometimes fresh fruit and vegetables can be expensive; you could try frozen fruit and vegetable which have the same healthy effect and can cost less.
For fast meal menus and recipes why not visit the Change 4 Life recipe section, where you'll find a lot of suggestions to try out as a family. It's worth cooking in bulk too because this means you will have home-made ready meals available for super quick healthy dinners. There are many stages to cooking a meal and you can get the whole family involved by dividing the cooking into different parts.
It is important to maintain regular meal times so that your child becomes used to eating at certain times around the day. There are many options for healthy snacks inbetween main meals including carrot sticks, nuts and fruit.
We know that fussy eating (not just for toddlers) is not uncommon. Children refuse to eat certain foods, eat a very limited range of food or refuse to eat at all. The following things may help:
- Eat together as a family and eat the same meal, ensuring that your child has an appropriately sized portion and that their food does not have any added salt
- Keep trying with new foods and offer them in different ways (e.g. offering carrot cooked, uncooked, grated, mixed in a sauce etc.)
- Praise your child when they try something new
- Aim for no more than two snacks a day
What if I need more help?
If you need further help and support, speak your health visitor and/or GP.
Encouragement and motivation
Exercise shouldn't always be about getting your child to go swimming or running, so think about which activities your child enjoys more - are there any day-to-day activities that you could turn into a fun form of exercise (that gets your heart rate up for 10 minutes or more at a time) for everyone to enjoy together? Here are some suggestions for 10 minute exercise routines:
10 Minute Shake Up Games: Change4Life and Disney have teamed up to bring you play-along games inspired by your favourite Disney and Pixar characters. These 10-minute bursts of fun will really get your kids moving and count towards the 60 active minutes they need every day.
Whilst you might be focused on getting your child to school as quickly as possible via car for example, the walk there and back is a simple form of exercise which can help your child (and you!) reach your 60 minutes of activity a day.
It's important to let them try different things so they can find something they like. Try and understand which forms of exercise they enjoy and encourage them to continue with these and look for further opportunities to develop their interest like joining a local team or an afterschool club. All forms of exercise and sport are great for a child and you should motivate and celebrate any progress or developments they make.
Doing sport is not only healthy for the body, it can have a great impact on confidence and well-being; above all it can be a lot of fun! It is important to support your child in trying out different sports and be encouraging whenever they start playing. Try and promote the feel-good factor as much as possible.
Children need to be active for at least 60 minutes in total each day but also need to reduce the time they spend sitting. PE sessions will offer different sport types so listen to what your child has done each session and what they have particularly enjoyed. You can see if they would like to continue some of their favourite sports outside of school or you can find out if your school offers afterschool activities.
Using the community (Parks and green spaces)
Try and engage with other families in your neighbourhood and find out what activities they do. This could be a useful way to gain ideas whilst giving your children opportunities to make friends and partake in shared activities. Local authority websites have parks and free activities that are available. Through these links you can find parks and green spaces in your area:
Using the community (Sports and facilities)
Within your community there are organisations which offer a wide range of sports bundled into one package/membership. There are different levels to these memberships and they strive to be inclusive by having reductions for certain groups. Here are some examples in each region: