With summer officially over and the school year back in full swing, life feels all the more fast-paced. As a busy parent, it’s understandably easy to get caught up in a hectic routine and inevitably put health on the backburner. However, it’s extremely important, amidst the frenzy, to continue to promote and monitor healthy living habits for your children. That is to say, making sure they are living a healthy, balanced life in order to foster an overall healthy outlook and prevent any immediate or long-term health problems. Though there has been an active movement towards school-based health programs, they are still unfortunately laden with unhealthy options and don’t create the ideal environment for a healthy lifestyle. It’s our duty as parents to instill healthy behaviors in our children, so let’s explore some ways to keep our little ones healthy and happy throughout the year. 1. Pay Attention to the Foods You Buy If you’re anything like me, grocery shopping is the last thing you feel like doing after a long day. But as a parent, it’s our responsibility to provide for our families, and ultimately we are in control of the foods we purchase and prepare for our children. Make sure you are buying fresh foods and healthy options. Don’t gravitate towards chips or lunchables just because they’re easy to prepare and pack for lunch. It’s important to prepare fresh, healthy meals packed with nutrients that the entire family will benefit from. 2. Moderation Moderation is key here. By serving a variety of healthy foods, children don’t feel pressured to eat them. When they have options and the ability to choose, they are more prone to reach for something healthy. That is not to say you can’t indulge here and there. It’s okay to have some ice cream and junk once in a while – being too rigid and restrictive can certainly backfire. Just make sure you pay attention to portion size. It’s all about a healthy balance that is realistic and attainable for a lifestyle choice. 3. Water One of the more important (and less emphasized) components of a healthy lifestyle is the act of drinking water. Often children ask for a soda or fruit juice, but these are packed with unnecessary sugars so don’t always comply. Water has endless health benefits and will keep children hydrated without packing on the sneaky pounds that sports drinks might. 4. Family Routines Plan activities as a family. Make it a part of your family routine to visit the community pool, go on an adventurous walk, or take a leisurely bike ride. Doing things as a family promotes stronger, healthier relationships that strengthen family bonding. 5. Encourage After-School Sports Encourage your children to get involved in extracurricular activities. After-school sports hoist a variety of benefits. They are a great opportunity for children to meet new friends, stay active, and positively impact school experiences. Similarly, active participation in school sports often yields better attendance and grades. 6. Limit TV Time Sure, we all need a little R&R here and there, but don’t let your children come home and plop on the couch for the duration of the night. Limit TV, computer, and video game time to a certain amount of hours a night. Instead, encourage physical activity for the rest of the hours in the day. 7. Practice What you Preach The most important thing that you can do as a parent is to practice what you preach. Ultimately, you are a role model for your children. They look up to you and emulate your behaviors, so make sure you are living that healthy, active lifestyle that you’re trying to perpetuate for your children. Get involved and encourage them through exemplary lifestyle choices. Remember that children are fragile. I can’t stress enough the importance of making this an organic lifestyle choice that isn’t too forced. Educate your children; teach them about the importance of a balanced, healthy lifestyle rather than counting every single calorie or fixating on certain aspects that might be emotionally or physically detrimental in the future. Encourage healthy behaviors that are realistic and attainable lifestyle choices.