Mind Body

Healthy habits

Training for good physical and mental well-being starts young

It’s back-to-school time. Along with learning writing, math and other academic skills, it is important for children to develop healthy habits during these formative years. Here are a few to instill in your young ones (and you may want to even brush up on some of these yourself!):

Eat your vegetables. The old adage still rings true. Brightly colored vegetables — think red and yellow bell peppers, rich orange carrots and dark green spinach — contain many vitamins and minerals that help nourish us, as well as powerful antioxidants that help protect us from diseases. They are an essential part of our diet and should not be taken for granted. The next time you make a meal, try to increase the range of colors on your plate. Here’s an idea: Make a salad with various types of lettuce, peppers, broccoli and carrots along with some cheese sprinkled on top and a flavorful dressing. This is a great way to introduce vegetables to kids.

Drink plenty of water. As tasty as many sweet juices and soft drinks are, the most nutritious drink for us is the most basic. Water helps to replenish our bodies. It is also good for our complexion, digestion and frame of mind. It is important to drink plenty of water in both the summer and winter to avoid dehydration. One of the best aspects of water is it does not contain calories, so we can drink it freely. Getting children in the habit of drinking water will set them up to enjoy the beverage as adults.

Get daily exercise. As the obesity epidemic continues to grow in this country, putting people at risk for diabetes and other health problems, teaching children the importance of physical activity has never been more important. Physical fitness not only is good for children’s waistlines, it also helps their mental well-being. Set a good example by walking instead of driving and taking time out to do physically active things on the weekend, such as bike riding, gardening or going on a nature hike. This helps to relay the message that exercise is good for us and is fun too.

Take time every day to read. As technology continues to play a more important role in our lives, it is helpful for children to be able to unwind and unplug. Diving into a good book is an enriching activity and helps children develop their reading and intellectual skills, expand their imaginations and relax from the stimulation of everyday life. Have them start a healthy habit of reading 30 minutes before bedtime.

Have a balanced mind-set. Certainly, life is not easy. But how we react to life’s setbacks is half of the struggle. While it is not possible (or realistic) to be positive all of the time, it helps if we can look at situations from a grounded perspective and find ways of taking the difficult times in stride. The more that we can teach and model this skill to children and teenagers, the more adaptable they will be to adulthood and the challenges that arise.

Get enough rest. Sleep not only helps us be alert and ready to face the following day, it also serves as a reset for our bodies and minds. As they are growing physically and developmentally, children, especially, need a lot of sleep.