Healthy Habits

8 Health Habits for Healthy Families

You play an important role as guide and coach for your child when they make choices about eating, exercise and screen time. To be successful requires you to lead by example. The choices parents make ultimately impact the decisions their teens make when it comes to healthy habits. Here are eight healthy habits to get your family started on the road to a healthy lifestyle:

  1. Set limits for screen time. Decide on the amount of time your teen is allowed to spend on their phone, watching TV or playing computer or video games. Parents should limit their own screen time as well.

  2. Exercise together. Go for a walk or bike ride as a family. Visit KidsHealth for more ideas and information.

  3. Eat three healthy meals a day. Include at least four servings of fruits, five servings of vegetables and four servings of dairy products. Prepare school lunches and dinners together.

  4. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after any exercise. This will help replace what is lost from sweating. Water is best. Avoid flavored sports drinks and soft drinks that are loaded with sugar.

  1. Eat less junk food and fast foods. They are often full of fat, cholesterol, salt and sugar.

  2. Get adequate sleep. Teens should get 9 to 10 hours of sleep every night.

  3. Have a hard conversation. Talk to your teen about the health risks related to smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or doing drugs, and sexual activity.

  4. Make a meal together. This helps encourage teens to make healthier choices while spending important time together. The bonus: They learn how to prepare their own meals!

How You Can Help Your Teen Build Healthy Habits

Habits formed during your teen years can last a lifetime. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services/Office of Adolescent Health has some recommendations for parents on the best ways to support teens and build healthy habits.

What Parents Should Know about Teen Nutrition

Teens’ bodies grow and change a lot so they need more calories to support these changes. For parents, promoting good eating habits means more than helping teens manage their calories. Teens need to get a good balance of protein, complex carbohydrates, dietary fat, vitamins, and minerals. Most teens get twice the amount of protein they need, but not enough vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin D.

3 Actions Parents Can Take to Support Healthy Eating Habits in Teens

  1. Keep healthy, easy foods on hand, and limit unhealthy snacks. Most of us snack when tempting food is around – even if we’re not hungry. Teens are no different. That’s why parents should keep healthy foods around that require no preparation, such as nuts and fruit. Limit processed foods like chips and cookies.
  2. Talk to your teen about food and promote health when you do so. Research shows that when parents talk about food and connect it to weight control, teens tune out.  Instead, talk to your teens about which foods are healthy and why. This will help them build skills they can use for the rest of their lives, such as reading nutrition labels for fat, salt and sugar content.
  3. Lead by example by modeling healthy eating. Part of supporting teens is ensuring that they develop the ability to make decisions for themselves. Parents can model how to make healthy food choices by eating well themselves, which supports any conversations about food choices.

What Parents Should Know about Teens and Exercise

Being active goes with good nutrition to help teens develop strong bones, muscles, and joints. Generally, exercise does not need to be difficult or strenuous for teens to benefit – and exercising too much can hurt them. Unfortunately, nearly half of all teens are not active enough, and 14 percent don’t exercise at all.

2 Actions Parents Can Take to Support Healthy Physical Activity in Teens

  1. Encourage teens to find fun activities. As with healthy eating, teens are more likely to choose to exercise if it is easy and fun for them. Not every teen wants to play on their high school sports team or go for a run. The good news is many activities can get teens moving – they just need to find the activity that’s right for them. Some ways to get exercise include jumping rope, shooting hoops, raking leaves or doing other fun chores, dancing, hiking, walking, yoga, swimming, tennis, and playing catch. Just about any activity that gets a teen moving is good.
  2. To help teens avoid injury, be mindful of doing too much. If teens are excited about an activity, or if they feel pressure to participate, it can lead them to overdo things. Remind teens to listen to their body so they know to stop when things hurt. You also may want to monitor if their weight drops below normal levels or if physical activity interferes with other responsibilities.

Last review date: January 25, 2021