Advice for Dr. Mom: The 7 Habits of Happy and Healthy Kids

All parents want their kids to be healthy – physically and emotionally. Physically, we wish their bodies bones, organs, muscles will be strong and emotionally, we wish for them to be stable and able to perform everyday tasks. And really, when our kids are healthier, our jobs as parents are much easier. That is a good thing.

7 Habits of Healthy and Happy Kids

Healthy and Happy Habit #1: Eat Breakfast

Up to 40% of the population do not eat breakfast. This is not an optimal way to begin your day. After a peaceful night of sleep, where the body is able to do some restoring and detoxifying, breakfast provides energy and nourishment that allow you to be alert, focused, productive and creative.

Breakfast sets the tone of how your mood will be for the day. Everyone wants to feel good…actually great and what better (and simple) way to achieve this then to eat breakfast.

Start blending away, and make your child a fruit smoothie. You can add a lot to that smoothie (protein powder, flax seeds, maybe a nut butter) and it’s simple, fast and nutritious.

Healthy and Happy Habit #2: Stay Hydrated

Unfortunately, many kids are not hydrated although parents may believe they are. When bottled water came to the market, there was a definite increase in water intake, which was a good thing until flavored water (hence sweetened) came to the market.

This sweetened version, although tasty to some, may be contributing to chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Keep your child hydrated and if plain water doesn’t please them, try infusing it with lemons, oranges or cucumbers. Brewing up a pitcher of herbal iced teas is a great replacement for sports drinks as well.

Healthy and Happy Habit #3: Eat Colors

Think whole food not processed! Whole foods are, as best described by one of my young students, foods that you can pick off trees.

Every time you serve your child (and yourself) a meal think color. Colorful whole foods are loaded with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients – all of which allow our bodies to function optimally.

If it’s difficult to entice your child to try new foods, begin by telling them a lively story about how the certain food will help them run faster, be stronger or smarter. Dr. Seuss’s’ book, Green Eggs and Ham, is a good book to have around as it reminds us to at least to try a new food – as you might just like it!

Healthy and Happy Habit #4: Wash Hands!

Kids need to be constantly reminded to wash their hands. It is easy to forget with all the excitement kids seem to have in every second of their lives, so gentle reminders are important.

Most acute illnesses are due to poor hygiene and the easiest way to avoid this is to wash your hands with soap and warm water. Have your kids pick out a scented (essential oils are the best) soap for their bathroom and place a post-it with a friendly (perhaps rhyming) reminder on the mirror.

Healthy and Happy Habit #5: Express Emotions

Let them be mad… or happy, sad, frustrated. It’s all okay.

Emotions are experiences of your state of mind. It’s a conscious experience that really needs to be addressed, respected and validated. To be quite honest, all emotions enrich our lives to be more vibrant, happier and joyful!

When my kids are angry, I suggest they take a time out. In their time out, they can release their anger by punching a pillow, writing in their journals, drawing, or listening to music – whatever makes them feel a little better.

Once they calm down, they can be clearer in their thoughts (they will feel this shift) and then they are able to articulately communicate and do some forgiving.

Healthy and Happy Habit #6: More Time for Play

With the introduction of video, Wii and computer games, it is very easy for kids to get all wrapped up in the technology world. These games are beneficial to a degree but kids are spending more time with them than being in their own creative world. Encourage your kids to use their imagination by playing outside with all of nature’s own toys.

To entice your kids to spend more time outside, give them a list of 5 to 10 things they can scavenger hunt for. It could be a stick, rock, berry or leaf. Challenge them by putting hard to find things on the list. Kids will love searching for things and at the same time enjoy exploring their own backyard.

Healthy and Happy Habit #7: Spend Quality Time

Spend quality time with your kids. Parents are busy. Kids are busy. We tend to lose track of time and by the end of the day, we may realize that no quality time was spent with our kids.

Kids bring us much joy, teach us many things and unfortunately, it is for a very short period of time. Spending more quality time with our kids will, in fact, allow us to be better at our jobs at home and at work.

Mealtime with all the preparing, eating and cleaning is a perfect time to connect with your child. Asking them about their day and if they asked any great questions to their teachers are sure ways to drum up some lively conversations.

Visit Dr. Heather, ND and Human Body Detectives series for kids, to learn more about Dr. Heather and her mission to have families be more proactive and healthy in their lives. You can also join the conversation on Twitter @drheathernd and HBD on Facebook.

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About Dr. Heather Manley
Dr. Heather Manley (from Toronto presently living in Hawaii), who in 2001 received her medical degree from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon, is a practicing physician whose primary interest is preventative healthcare for families. She is the author of Human Body Detectives, her educational series of story-telling audiobooks and accompanying activity workbooks. She also promotes wellness and naturopathic healthcare on her website drheathernd.com. She lives on the Big Island of Hawaii with her husband and two daughters, and is currently at work on the next Human Body Detectives adventure.

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    Kids today are gaining more weight, are susceptible to more stress, and are connecting less. 

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