6 Healthy Habits that Should be Encouraged in Children

Learn about the healthy habits that should be encouraged in children to lay the foundations for good health.
6 Healthy Habits that Should be Encouraged in Children

Last update: 19 July, 2022

A healthy life begins to be built from childhood, so it’s essential to know what healthy habits should be encouraged in children. This way, we’ll help them achieve the goal of maintaining their health and well-being in adulthood.

Childhood is the most propitious stage for acquiring certain habits, as the brain is much more receptive to learning. Therefore, investing time today in educating your little ones in notions of self-care will be worthwhile in the medium and long term.

Check if you’re dedicating enough time to instill healthy routines in your children!

Healthy habits that should be encouraged in children: The best health prevention strategy

Play, sports, and a balanced diet are fundamental pillars for maintaining a good state of health. However, there are many more beneficial habits that you should instill in your children from an early age. Take note!

1. A balanced and varied diet

Variety is one of the key components of healthy diets and is determined by the inclusion of all food groups in the daily diet. These are vegetables (fruits and vegetables), meats, dairy products, flours (pasta and baked goods), cereals, and legumes. All of them provide the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that the body needs to better perform its vital functions.

At the same time, it’s important to consider the balance of the diet, which refers to the desirable proportions of each of the groups mentioned in the daily diet. For this, we can base ourselves on the food pyramid, which guides us on the portions and recommended amounts of each food, according to the general needs.

Chidlren eating a healthy lunch while in the park.
Without going into too much detail, there’s a general guideline to adapt the food consumption of children: More presence of fresh foods and less packaged and ultra-processed foods.

Don’t forget about eating habits!

To the variety and balance we must add some other recommendations to improve the eating habits of the little ones:

  • Instill the routine of eating a good breakfast every morning.
  • Plan meal times to avoid “snacking”.
  • Make dishes appealing to children to improve their acceptance.

According to the ALADINO report, in Spain and in Europe in general, excess weight and obesity in childhood have grown steadily over the last 40 years. And this phenomenon is related, to a large extent, to the poor eating habits typical of this era.

2. Frequent and sufficient hydration

Drinking water is the best choice to maintain a good state of hydration. Our body is mainly composed of this fluid, and day by day, it’s consumed or lost in different ways (skin, saliva, and urine, among others). For this reason, it’s key to replenish body water even when thirst isn’t perceived, and this is achieved with an appropriate intake, which is determined according to the infant’s body surface.

Although children love fruit juices, these contain a high amount of sugar, so it’s better to reserve them for special occasions and not consume them every day.

3. More time for physical activity

Both games and sports are healthy habits that contribute to better body functioning. Keeping the body moving is one of the healthy habits that should be encouraged from childhood, especially to avoid sedentary lifestyles and excess weight in early stages of life. In addition, sport improves people’s quality of life, physically, mentally, and socially.

4. Fewer hours of screen time

Although television used to be the theme, nowadays screens have multiplied and have become the main company of many infants.

However, we know that spending many hours exposed to screens isn’t healthy for children. Sitting or lying down with computers or cell phones takes away time for active play, physical activity, sharing with family, and getting outdoors to enjoy the fresh air.

5. Hygiene habits

One aspect closely related to health is cleanliness and physical hygiene, especially hand and teeth brushing.

It’s not an easy task to instill in children the habit of brushing their teeth, but it’s essential to do so from the time they’re babies. There are several techniques for this and the associated benefits are many.

Maintaining the habit of hand washing is fundamental for the care of everyone’s health. It should be instilled and reinforced from childhood, especially after playing in the park, going to the bathroom, before and after eating, or when returning from school.

A toddler washing her hands in the sink.
Hand hygiene saves lives, and when the habit is acquired from childhood, it translates into greater well-being for life.

6. Sleep hours

The habit of going to bed at a certain time is essential to establish order in the house and also, to respect the rhythms of sleep and wakefulness of our bodies. The number of hours of sleep needed varies according to the age of the child and in the youngest, a daytime nap may be a necessity.

Healthy habits are encouraged from childhood and your actions are key

Much of children’s learning occurs by imitation. Therefore, your child will copy what you do at home every day. If you want to propose a change, start by reviewing your habits and show them by example how to lead a healthier life.

“My best advice is for parents to be good role models by eating healthy and being physically active with their children.”

-Dr. Holly Nicastro, NIH Nutritionist

In other words, if you have healthy habits, your little ones will have them too, as these habits will be seen not as obligations or extraordinary events, but as normal, everyday issues.

The point is to organize yourself to share more time and activities with your children so that they can observe you closely and copy what you do. For example, prepare a dinner of healthy food together so they can see what ingredients we use, plan a family outing outdoors for a walk, among others.

Finally, support your child when they choose to eat an apple instead of a cookie or when they get ready for bed on their own at the usual time. And if they still don’t make these choices, insist with love and patience and explain to them why healthy habits are so important for them and for the whole family.

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