By Carolyn Belisle
Keeping kids healthy means encouraging them to eat nutritious foods and be active. For busy parents, it may seem like a challenge to get kids motivated to eat well and participate in a variety of physical activities, but the key is making healthy choices appealing and fun.
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) is fortunate to partner with several organizations across Rhode Island working to combat childhood obesity. One example is South County Food Fitness and Fun (SCFFF), a successful intervention program based at the University of Rhode Island that provides overweight and obese children and their families fitness and nutritional counseling in a fun and friendly environment. An innovative collaboration involving pediatricians, activity directors, university researchers, and dieticians, SCFFF offers many creative recommendations for parents to promote good nutrition and healthy and active lifestyles for kids which focus on making small but permanent changes in eating and physical activity. This summer, try these healthy eating and fitness tips that are fun for the whole family:
- Make fitness a game. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week. SCFFF suggests an energetic game that you can play with your children—“aerobic bowling.” The rules are simple: the first team to knock down an upright bowling pin (or other weighted object) 5 times is the winner. To begin, one player rolls a ball to try and knock down the pin while the other player, who is standing a few feet behind the pin, tries to block the ball. If the first player doesn’t knock down the pin on their first try, they switch places with the other player. The faster you are in switching, the more chances you’ll have of winning!
- Eat the rainbow. Eating a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables provides your kids with an array of essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and more. One way to help your child learn about these colorful fruits and vegetables is to collect pictures of them and then sort the food pictures into colored groups. Help your child stick them onto matching colored paper and then hang them on your refrigerator as a reminder for your children to brighten up their plate every time they choose something to eat. SCFFF also recommends giving kids a fun “taste test” while blindfolded, so they can try a variety of foods before deciding whether they like something or not.
- Use technology to your child’s advantage. When it comes to staying active, pedometers, which count steps taken, are a great way to involve the whole family. By recording daily steps and distance, you can see who in your family is taking the lead. You and your child can set daily goals for each other, such as taking 2,000 steps a day and then 3,000 and so on – working your way up to larger goals. Some fitness trackers can even give you and your child a snapshot of what your overall day looked like, showing you graphs and charts, which can help your child learn about math percentages.
- Learn about how foods grow. The best way to teach your children about where fruits and vegetables come from is to grow a garden, either in your own yard or as part of a community garden. Children will learn about new foods and what fruits and vegetables can be planted in different seasons. A garden is also a helpful tool to teach children about patience, responsibility and the act of taking care of something. Not only will your children have readily available snacks, but they will be nutritionally aware and develop better eating habits.
Engaging in regular physical activities and eating nutritious food can help combat serious health risks. By trying different activities and food, your child will learn what they do and do not like, and build a foundation of healthy habits that will stay with them as they develop and grow. Small changes toward a healthy lifestyle can lead to big results for the whole family.
About the author
Carolyn Belisle is the Managing Director of Community Relations at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) and responsible for the company’s community investment strategy. Two years, ago Carolyn spearheaded BCBSRI’s shift of philanthropic focus to address childhood obesity, an issue of national and local concern. A mom of three young daughters, Carolyn recognizes the value in establishing healthy habits early for a lifetime of benefit.
About South County Food Fitness and Fun
South County Food Fitness and Fun (SCFFF) is a 16-week family-based intervention designed to help overweight and obese children decrease their relative weight and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Children are referred to the program through their physician, and learn ways to eat healthfully and stay active. Parents/guardians learn how to reinforce healthy eating habits and exercise at home. For more information about SCFFF, please visit www.scfff.org.