Help Your Kids Live Healthier Lives

Sunday, January 18th 2009, 6:42 pm
By: News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- There are several ways to our kids can lead healthier lives. Doctor Paul Darden and Dr. Casey Hester from OU's College of Medicine share tips on how to start on a healthier path.

1) Talk to them about not smoking
Stopping children from smoking is the No. 1 priority if we want to ensure a healthier future for them. Smoking increases the risk of cancer, heart disease and other ailments. Quitting isn't easy. So, the best protection is to help ensure that your child or grandchild never starts smoking. Talk to them about not smoking. "If you smoke, your children are more likely to smoke. So it's best if you do all you can to stop smoking too," said Dr. Casey Hester, a pediatrician with OU Children's Physicians.

2) Help them maintain a healthy weight
Overweight children and obesity is a growing problem in Oklahoma. Hester suggests talking to your pediatrician about the best way to help your child achieve and/or maintain a healthy body weight.

3) Eat a healthier diet
Teach children about a balanced meal, portion control and sugar reduction. Limit temptation by reducing the number of high-fat, high-sugar snacks you keep around the house. Instead, Hester said stock up on more fresh fruits and vegetables. Reduce the number of soft drinks and fast food meals consumed too. Sodas and high-fat foods add calories that will be stored as fat if not burned off. Cooking a healthy meal does require a little time and effort on your part, so plan ahead. Consider cooking ahead, perhaps on weekends, so that you will be less tempted to opt for a fast-food dinner when in a hurry.

4) Don't skip breakfast
Did you know that there is evidence that people who eat breakfast on a regular basis are less likely to become overweight than people who skip breakfast? So, help your child learn the importance of breakfast at an early age. "Breakfast gives a child the energy needed to do their best in school, in sports and in other activities," Hester added.

5) Encourage children to play outside or find an activity you both can do together.
Tackle exercise as a family. Take an after-dinner walk together at least three times a week.

6) Get regular checkups
It's important for children and teenagers to see their family physician or pediatrician on a regular basis, not just when they are sick. "Well-child" check-ups are not just for young children. A yearly visit to the doctor is important for children of all ages. It can help pick up on a variety of health issues early when they are most effectively treated, and many insurance plans pay for well checks for children.

7) Keep vaccinations current
The list of recommended vaccinations has changed in recent years. There are some new vaccinations or boosters now recommended in the pre-teen/teen years

8) Get enough sleep
Children, from infancy to the teen years, need sufficient sleep to perform their best in school and other activities as well as keep their immune system strong. Hester said nine or 10 hours of sleep per night for a child who is in middle school is reasonable.

9) Focus on accident and injury prevention
Keep medicines and poisons locked up and out of children's reach. Buckle children properly into a car seat or booster seat when younger (with seat buckled into car), and a seat belt when older. Help ensure children always use safety equipment when in-line skating, riding a bike or playing sports