Thursday, December 10, 2009

Parents' Most Important Resolution: Help Your Kids Get Healthier in the New Year

/PRNewswire/ -- What's the most important New Year's resolution for parents this year? Keeping their kids healthy! With increased attention to juvenile obesity and related health problems, finding ways to improve lifestyle behaviors is emerging as a top priority for many parents nationwide.

This is why Alere LLC, a leader in personal health support solutions, offers Healthy Kids, a program that provides parents with clear, easy-to-implement strategies that they can incorporate into their daily lives. Developed with a team of clinicians experienced in working with families to address obesity, the online program is personalized to a range of criteria, such as age, activity level, and even frequency of family meals.

"As we parents think about our New Year's resolutions for 2010, it's important to look beyond just the typical goal of losing a few pounds for ourselves," notes Heather Zeitz, RD, CDN, vice president of Health Programming and Content for Alere. "If we are going to combat the frightening increase in obesity and associated diseases in children, parents and caregivers need to find ways to lead by example and to help their children learn healthier diet and exercise habits for life."

Here are some important recommendations and tips from Alere that can help families make and keep healthier New Year's resolutions:

1. Talk About It: Alere's nutritionists encourage parents to sit down with their children to discuss healthy resolutions for 2010. Changing your children's eating and activity habits means committing to changing your own habits. So look for resolutions that the entire family can embrace. "Make sure to listen to what your kids are saying when it comes to food and activity," says Zeitz. "Then commit to providing the support and encouragement they need to be successful."

2. Make Healthy Choices Easier: You can't always control your kids, but you can control the environment at home. Encourage better choices by:

-- Keeping healthier foods on hand, such as whole-grain, low-sugar
breakfast foods and portable healthy snacks
-- Eating together often -- at least three or four times a week!
-- Having active games available -- for use during "no TV" times!

3. Make Healthy Food Fun: Children can and do understand the importance of healthy eating. "It's our job as parents to show our kids that healthy eating is not only important, it can also be fun and help them to feel better and get more from life," says Zeitz. She encourages families to grocery shop together to find healthy, new foods. "Make it interesting for younger children by going on a scavenger hunt in the produce aisle," she suggests. "Challenge older kids to see if they can find healthier ingredients for their favorite burritos or pizza."

4. Make It Taste Good: Kids won't eat if it doesn't taste good. Look for recipes - starting with favorite and familiar foods - that can easily be made healthier. Alere's Healthy Kids features hundreds of easy recipes for healthy burritos, pizzas and turkey bites, as well as ways to make better choices when buying school lunches. Zeitz also recommends encouraging youngsters to get involved in preparing foods with fun, age-appropriate activities.

5. Get Active Together: Make being more active a family affair. Your children will learn healthy habits from watching you. Find activities you can do together as a family, everything from walking to school together to spending the day hiking or biking. Remember, this is a long-term commitment. If you go back to old habits yourself, your children will probably follow suit.

6. Keep Track: Record your family's food choices and activity level. Over time this can be a useful tool in noticing changes and keeping you and your family accountable. Remember, if you stray off course, don't quit. Determine what led to the lapse - a busier schedule, lack of planning, etc., and find ways to get back on track. Remember to stay with it! Your family will benefit.

7. Be Positive! This may be one of the most important things you can do when encouraging better health for your kids. Maintaining an upbeat attitude -- and avoiding nagging or negative comments -- can help build confidence and make your child more willing to stay with a plan for a healthier lifestyle.

Healthy Kids was developed to reflect Alere's personal health support philosophy of behavior change. This means focusing on realistic, sustainable actions that can help reduce health risks. The program is offered to health plans and employers as part of Alere's suite of wellness solutions, a comprehensive approach to personal health management that focuses on improving health based on the specific needs of each individual.

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