How to Teach Your Child Healthy Digestive Habits
Eating Too Much Junk Food
Chips, sodas, sweets: At school, home, at the corner store, everywhere they turn, kids have easy access to high-calorie, low-nutrition snack foods and drinks -- and they love them. In fact, some estimates have kids eating fast food 157 million times a month.
Expert Tip: Don't bring junk into the house.
There's not much you can do when kids are away from home, but you can keep calorie-dense, low-nutrition food and drink out of the family cupboards.
Bringing home occasional treats is great, but stock the pantry with plenty of healthy snacks too, advises Tolcher. Think nuts like cashews, almonds, walnuts; fruits like cherries, apricots, grapes; and crunchy-sweet veggies like red peppers and carrots -- body-building foods that also taste great.
Drinking Too Many Calories
Some kids drink a lot of juice, milk, sports drinks, and sweetened sodas, and not nearly enough water. And though these drinks are high in calories, they're generally low in fiber and other things that help kids feel full, so it's easy to drink too much of them.
Expert Tip: Drink more water.
Water makes up every cell in our bodies and is vital to digesting and eliminating food, so it's a great idea to encourage kids to get more of it. How much water should kids drink?
- Water. There's no set target for exactly how much water children need, the best idea is to just encourage kids to drink as much as they want. Boost water's appeal by making it easy to access. Try having a clear, icy jug of it in the fridge; add sliced oranges, lemons, and strawberries to make it look and taste great.
- Other drinks. For kids under 13, pediatrician Tolcher suggests keeping milk intake to 24 ounces daily or less. For juice, aim for 6 ounces or less for kids under 6, and a maximum of 12 ounces for kids 7 and up.
Being Too Sedentary
TV, video games, and computer time: These activities keep kids indoors and sedentary -- but kids need exercise for good health. Physical activity not only helps kids maintain a healthy weight, it can boost self-esteem and self-confidence; it even aids digestive health and is key in treating issues like constipation.
Expert Tip: Aim for 60 minutes of activity daily.
Encourage kids to get outside and stay active, advises pediatrician Scott Cohen, MD, attending physician at Cedars Sinai Medical Center and author of Eat, Sleep, Poop: A Complete Common Sense Guide to Your Baby's First Year. Kids over 2 should aim for 60 minutes of moderate activity daily, which can be broken into two 30-minute or even four 15-minute blocks. The key: Get moving!
Digestive Health: Set a Good Example
Eating right is a family effort. How to get your kids to eat a balanced diet, get plenty of exercise, and avoid too much junk food? One way kids learn good digestive health habits is by seeing them modeled.
"Parents need to set a good example of healthy eating for their children," Tolcher tells WebMD. As much as we wish otherwise, "'Do as I say but not as I do' does not work on children!"