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10 Clever Ways to Trick Your Child into a Healthy Lifestyle

10 Clever Ways to Trick Your Child into a Healthy Lifestyle

Everyone tried to escape their veggies when they were younger, but these days, the health hazards your children face are far more critical. From endless fast-food chain restaurants which offer popular toys with their meals, to eyes glued to touch screens which exercise nothing but their thumbs, it’s no wonder that the numbers of overweight children only continues to rise.

Parents have the thankless duty of pulling their kids out of these bad habits before they get older and the side effects become more difficult to reverse. But how do you get them off their devices and onto their feet? How do you get them to eat their greens? Simple: make the process seem like fun with a little bit of sneaky magic trickery! And here are 10 ways to do just that:

1. Make Healthy Food More Exciting
If your child has already sworn off broccoli, it’s not going to be easy to change their mind. But what if bits of the vegetable worked as the hair on top of a friendly face? Get artistic, mix colors to create culinary masterpieces, perhaps organizing fruit/veggies into animal shapes, or cookie cut them into various unrecognizable sizes, served like a tasting board of fun.

2. Disguise Healthy Food
If the above fails, why not use camouflage? Bake fruit into a low-calorie cake, or blend veggies into a tasty smoothie “milkshake”. Many parents have sworn by the entertainment value of dipping carrots or peppers into hummus or flavored yogurts, encouraging their kids to experiment and enjoy these foods.

3. Get Them Involved
No matter how old your child is, if they are part of the preparation team, there will be an additional sense of pride towards the final result. Allow them to pick out a few choice ingredients, give them a simple mealtime responsibility, and then enthusiastically educate them about the advantages of each nutritious food group along the way.

4. Select the Right Toys
Promote physical and mental development by researching the healthiest entertainment for kids on the market, such as water paints for creativity, building blocks for cognitive progression, video games which encourage physical activity (like Nickelodeon Fit), or colorful hand exerciser and stretcher products (like therapy putty) for strengthening their growing wrists and fingers. You’ll probably want to get involved with the fun too!

5. Have a Dance
Whenever you find a spare moment in the day, put on your child’s number one song and jump around the living room with them for as long as you can keep up. Dancing is a great way to increase the heartbeat and stretch the body out, not to mention that they will have no idea they are even exercising.

6. Play Outdoor Games with Them
Avoid the word “exercise” and replace it with more thrilling alternatives, such as “tag”, “swimming”, “trampoline jumping”, or “bike riding”. Even taking them to the zoo, the beach, or an amusement park will secretly promote a lot of healthy walking time.

7. Make It Competitive
Nothing will bring out the fire in your children quite like a little bit of a neighborly challenge. Set up a competition around a safe obstacle course or a friendly sporting game, and invite your kids as well as their friends to get involved. If no friends are around, challenge your child yourself, or express doubt that they can beat their previous record time.

8. Reward Them
With any of these suggestions, you are guaranteed success if you offer something concrete for their efforts, which doubles up as a great introduction to the capitalist system anyway. It doesn’t even have to be anything of significant value either, for example: allowing them to stay up 10 minutes past their bedtime, choosing tonight’s dinner, or simply a golden star stuck to their forehead. These prizes should be enough incentive to inspire your children to chase that warm sense of achievement, just like everyone does.

9. Encourage Barefoot Activities
An often overlooked trick is to remove your children’s shoes as often as possible. Considering that their developing feet will be responsible for a lifetime of balance, posture, growth, and functional nerve receptors, it is always recommended to introduce their toes to every different texture available. And, of course, they will adore the free feeling this practice provides.

10. Be a Good Influence
Finally, if you are overweight yourself and plagued by bad habits, it won’t take long until your child mimics these behaviors. Lead by example and use your young ones as motivation, by participating in all of the above suggestions too. And then before you know it, you will have even tricked yourself into a healthier lifestyle.

This is a guest blog post.

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Who’s Right in the Salt Debate?

For decades, a sometimes furious battle has raged among scientists over the extent to which elevated salt consumption contributes to death, with one camp calling it a “public health hazard that requires vigorous attack” and another claiming the risks of dietary salt excess are exaggerated, even to the point of calling sodium reduction “the largest delusion in the history of preventive medicine.” The other side calls this denialism ethically irresponsible, especially when millions of lives are at stake every year.

To describe two sides of the debate may be falling into the trap of false equivalency, though. As the superhero-sounding “World Hypertension League” points out, there is strong scientific consensus that reducing salt saves lives, and—like the climate change debate—most authorities are on one side. On the other? Only the affected industry, their paid consultants, and a few dissenting scientists.

As I discuss in Sprinkling Doubt: Taking Sodium Skeptics with a Pinch of Salt, nearly all government appointed bodies and nutrition experts who have considered the evidence have recommended we collectively cut our salt intake about in half—a reduction described as extreme by those defending the industry. After all, just a small fraction of Americans actually get their sodium intake that low. Therefore, the salt skeptics say, the human experience for very low levels of sodium consumption is “extremely sparse.”

Extremely sparse? The reality is the exact opposite. The human experience is living for millions of years without Cheetos or a salt shaker in sight. We evolved to be salt-conserving machines, and when we’re plunked down into snack food and KFC country, we develop high blood pressure. But in the few remaining populations that don’t eat salt and only consume the small amounts of sodium found in natural foods like we had for millions of years, our leading killer risk factor, hypertension, is practically non-existent. When you take people with out-of-control hypertension and bring them back down to the sodium levels we were designed to eat, the ravages of the disease can even be reversed (see my video Drugs & the Demise of the Rice Diet). So, why is there still a debate?                    

If salt hidden in food kills millions of people around the world, why are efforts to cut dietary salt being met with such fierce resistance? Salt is big business for the processed food and meat industry. So, according to the head of the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center on Nutrition, we get the familiar story. Just like the tobacco industry spent decades trying to manufacture doubt and confuse the public, the salt industry does the same, but the controversy is fake. The evidence for salt reduction is clear and consistent. Most of the “contradictory research” comes from scientists linked to the salt industry. However, it takes skill to spot the subterfuge because the industry is smart enough to stay behind the scenes, covertly paying for studies designed to downplay the risks. All they have to do is manufacture just enough doubt to keep the so-called controversy alive.

The likes of the World Hypertension League have been described as a “mere pop-gun against the weapons-grade firepower of salt-encrusted industries” who look disdainfully at the “do-gooder health associations…who erect roadblocks on the path to profits.” Lest we forget, notes an editorial in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association, high blood pressure is big business for the drug industry, too, whose blood pressure billions might be threatened should we cut back on salt. If we went sodium-free and eliminated the scourge of hypertension, not only would Big Pharma suffer, what about doctors? The number-one diagnosis adults see doctors with is high blood pressure, at nearly 40 million doctor visits a year, so maybe even the BMW industry might be benefiting from keeping the salt debate alive.

For another in-depth video on the so-called sodium controversy, see High Blood Pressure May Be a Choice.

I discuss hypertension in How to Prevent High Blood Pressure with Diet and How to Treat High Blood Pressure with Diet. But what if you already eat healthfully and still can’t get your pressures down? Try adding hibiscus tea (Hibiscus Tea vs. Plant-Based Diets for Hypertension) and ground flaxseeds (Flaxseeds for Hypertension) to your diet, and make sure you’re exercising regularly (Longer Life Within Walking Distance).

If you cut down on salt, won’t everything taste like cardboard? Your taste buds shift remarkably quickly, as I cover in Changing Our Taste Buds.

If you’re surprised about industry tactics to distort the balance of evidence, here are a few other poignant examples:

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

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