Teaching Children about Healthy Diet and Exercise

By FCPS & Fairfax County Government
Healthy Minds
January 20, 2022

We routinely emphasize the importance of learning the ABC’s, as they pertain to the alphabet and learning to read. According to the American Psychological Association, it is also important that we teach children a different set of ABC’s...ABCDE: Act Boldly to Change Diet and Exercise.

Parents and guardians are in a unique position to positively influence children’s healthy eating habits and exercise. The American Psychological Association recommends the following:

Act Boldly:

  • Serve as a positive role model for children by making healthy choices and exercising on a regular basis.
  • Foster healthier habits in children by limiting screen time, encouraging exercise, purchasing healthy food options, and eliminating processed foods to the greatest extent possible.
  • From an early age, introduce children to a variety of different foods and flavor profiles, so they can grow to appreciate an assortment of food as they grow up.

Change their Diet:

  • Cook with healthy foods that are packed with nutrients for family meals and snacks to encourage healthy eating.
  • Involve children in finding creative and innovative ways in giving tried and tested family recipes a healthier makeover.
  • Practice mindful eating, which involves avoiding screen time during meals, in taking time to fully savor every bite and notice the complexities in the food that is eaten.  
  • Find ways to enjoy meals as a family whenever possible. Research suggests that dining together improves family connectedness and promotes healthier nutrition. 

Change their Exercise Routine:

  • Find time to participate in physical activity with your children, whether it is going for a neighborhood walk, bike riding, jogging, playing tag, or many other fun activities. 
  • Facilitate moving around at home with your children. Encourage participation in gardening, household chores, yard work, etc.
  • When giving gifts, choose ones that encourage physical activity, such as sports equipment, active games, or enrollment in community activities or teams. 

For more information, check out the We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children's Activity and Nutrition) national education program from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

If you or someone you know may be experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis, text HOME to 741741 to reach a crisis counselor, call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or call 911.

The Healthy Minds Blog shares information related to youth mental health and wellness for an audience of parent, educators and community-based providers. Articles include tips and strategies for increasing wellness and resiliency, as well as fostering success at home, at school and in the community.

The Healthy Minds Blog is a collaborative project between Fairfax County Public Schools and the Prevention Unit of the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services. It is part of the Healthy Minds Fairfax (see below) initiative, designed to support emotional wellness in youth and families.

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