National Child Health Day: Practical Tips for Helping Kids and Teens to Develop Healthy Habits

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

Photo by Robert Collins via
Photo by Robert Collins via

“The health of the child is the power of the nation”. This was once the official slogan for National Child Health Day, which happens annually on the first Monday of October. What a perfect time to reflect on the importance of healthy lifestyle habits for children!

Set kids and teens up for a healthy future by teaching them to take charge of their own health. Parents are the ultimate role models! Sure, there are things over which we have no control but there are steps we CAN take to help maximize our health for a better tomorrow.

Healthy Food Habits

The food and beverage choices we make every single day have a HUGE impact on our health.

Find opportunities to eat more vegetables:

  1. Sauté chopped peppers and onions and add them to scrambled eggs.

  2. Add grated carrot to sandwiches for a slightly sweet crunch.

  3. "Marinate” sliced fresh radishes with a tiny bit of salt for a spicy and delicious side with lunch.

  4. Trade out the noodles for cooked cabbage leaves the next time you make your favorite lasagna.

  5. Nosh on a few crunchy celery sticks, filled with peanut butter.

  6. Add just about ANY kind of finely chopped veggie to meatballs and hamburgers.

  7. Top any cooked veggie with a sprinkle of sharp cheddar.

  8. Serve mashed cauliflower as an upgrade to the usual mashed potatoes.

  9. Snip fresh parsley onto whatever you are serving for a tasty garnish that packs vitamin C

  10. Make a HUGE salad to enjoy for a few days (keep it tightly covered).

Eat real foods instead of heavily processed fakes

Sure, the package of veggie chips gives the appearance of something healthy inside, but why settle for a glorified potato chip? Crunchy carrots, peppers, cucumbers, celery and broccoli are the REAL deal. Try them with a dip of humus, ranch or guacamole.

Drink More Water

Sugary drinks such as juice, soda, sports beverages, fruit punch, sweet tea, vitamin -enhanced water and flavored milk are OK on occasion. Replace these liquid treats with plain water. Keep a bottle of it close by at all times to help develop the “water habit”.

Make it at Home

We all love a meal out now and then. Some families would like to scale this back though and try preparing more meals at home. Check out the recipes here on the Bull City Fit website for ideas. Another great resource is the Family Dinner Project:

Healthy Activity Habits

Physical activity benefits our body and our brain in so many ways.

Even a little exercise is better than none at all!

  1. Go for a walk.

  2. Put on music and dance.

  3. Find a fun You Tube video to get moving.

  4. Hula-hoop.

  5. Play with the dog.

  6. Ride a bike.

  7. Learn some yoga moves.

  8. Kick a soccer ball outside.

  9. Play dodge – sock ball inside (using old rolled up socks of course!)

  10. Check out the MANY Bull City Fit virtual physical activity ideas.

Healthy Sleep Habits

Getting enough sleep is crucial for health. A consistent night - time routine is a good way to help your child wind down and prepare for sleep. The routine might go something like this:

  1. Turn off the electronics.

  2. Shower.

  3. Brush teeth.

  4. Read together.

  5. Share a happy thought with each other (a dream or wish, something that made you smile that day, a kind deed that you did for someone, etc.).

  6. Lights out (with NO TV or other electronics!)

Written by Jenny Favret, MS, RD, LDN

Nutritionist, Duke Pediatrics Healthy Lifestyles Program

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