Raise Healthy Children Through Active Parenting

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Active Parenting

Raising healthy children involves active parenting, nutritious meals, regular exercise and proper medical care.

"Take special care to be sure your child exercises regularly," said Peggy Fleming, Olympic figure skating champion and HealthSaver spokesperson. "An active lifestyle ensures that your child maintains strong bones and prevents disease."

Good nutrition is also vital to your child's overall health. Studies show that children with healthy eating habits also have more energy and higher self-esteem.

A pediatrician's care is also essential to your child's development and the prevention and detection of disease. "Make the most of each visit," said Brad Eggleston, vice president of HealthSaver. "Ask questions about your child's health and inform the doctor of all appropriate health information."

As a healthy parent, you can teach your child the importance of health by example. When children learn to love exercise and nutritious food, they also learn that being healthy means being happy.

Encourage Kids to Stay Active

-- Exercise helps prevent or delay the development of disease, builds healthy bones and controls weight. In order to stay healthy, the U.S. Department of Health recommends children stay physically active for one hour each day. Studies show, however, that only 36 percent of American adolescents meet this physical requirement.

-- Studies also show that support from family tends to increase a child's physical activity. Involve your child in physical activities you can enjoy as a family. Plan a bike ride at your local park, a basketball game at the gym or a swim in a nearby lake. The time spent together will strengthen your bond and help keep each of you fit.

-- If a busy schedule leaves less time for structured exercise, incorporate physical activity into your child's daily routine. Designate active chores such as yard work, taking out the trash and walking the dog, all of which will also help teach your child responsibility.

-- American children watch an average of three hours of television every day. Limit such sedentary activities to help keep kids on their feet and prevent inactive lifestyles.

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Teach Your Children to Eat Right

-- Studies show that children who share family meals are more likely to do well in school, less likely to smoke, and tend to eat more fruits and vegetables.

-- Children are also more likely to eat what they help prepare. Give your child tasks such as measuring, mixing or setting the table.

-- Desserts, pizza and snacks constitute one third of American children's diets. Encourage your kids to eat a variety of foods to ensure they consume the nutrients they need. If your child is a picky eater, make food fun: cut apples into shapes with cookie cutters or serve carrots with peanut butter.

-- Approximately 80 percent of American children do not eat the recommended five or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day. These nutrient-rich foods provide children with essential vitamins and minerals at a critical time of growth. Aim for two cups of fruit and two and a half cups of vegetables per day. Try basing meals around vegetables, then serve fruit as dessert.

-- The number of overweight children has more than doubled in the past three decades, resulting in a higher risk for diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. Along with exercise and appropriate portions, proper food choices - such as more whole grains - can help reduce your child's risk of type 2 diabetes, a disease that the U.S. Department of Health calls the "first consequence" of the obesity epidemic.

-- Keep healthy snacks readily available in the kitchen and your car for on-the-go hunger. Pretzels and dried fruit are great choices.

Doctor Knows Best

-- Regular visits give your child's doctor an opportunity to help prevent and detect disease. Vaccines and immunizations also protect your child's health.

-- Inform your pediatrician of your child's family's medical history, including diseases and conditions. This will alert the physician to any risk factors that may affect your child's health. Also be sure to tell the doctor about your child's medications and any allergies or reactions.

-- The most common childhood chronic disease is tooth decay. Schedule dental checkups twice a year to help prevent cavities. Oral health can also reveal information about your child's overall health.

Forcing a healthy habit may only serve to discourage your child. Instead, take small steps toward change: add a vegetable to dinner, sign your child up for a new sport, take fewer trips to the drive-thru. Instilling such habits now will secure a bright future. With your encouragement, your children will ease into a lifestyle that will leave them healthier and happier.

HealthSaver, an emerging health care discount program, offers savings on prescriptions, vision care, complementary and alternative health care treatments, vitamins and supplements by mail and more than 1,500 fitness clubs nationwide, including select Bally Total Fitness, World Gym and Ladies Workout Express locations.

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