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Routines are important for families

February 11, 2004|by LYNN F. LITTLE

Humans are creatures of habit. We develop routines, standard ways of living our lives, and then we stick to them for many years. With the role routine plays in life, it is important to create healthy routines, which is easier than you might think.

Regular routines, for eating and activity, are especially important for young children. Kids thrive on a healthy routine of meals, snacks and active play. Establishing early, healthy patterns is a simple way to prevent eating and weight problems later in life.

Healthy routines also can help with parenting problems, such as fighting over food at dinnertime. Small children do need to eat more frequently than adults. However, unstructured grazing on snack foods means that kids will not be hungry, or interested, when dinnertime rolls around. A healthy routine, such as a nourishing mid-afternoon snack, helps kids come to the table with a healthy appetite and attitude.

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Healthy routines help kids and their parents maintain a healthy weight. The world is full of appealing, high-calorie foods - everywhere from the gas station to the mall. Without an alternative, it's easy to eat and drink things just because they are there. Making it routine to carry healthy snacks, such as string cheese or trail mix, helps you resist temptation - and saves money.

Developing healthy routines isn't difficult. In fact, there are many simple steps that families can take to establish healthy habits. Since we tend to eat or drink the first thing we find, making it routine to have cut-up fruit in the fridge makes it easy to snack smarter. Having milk and a pitcher of cold water on the top shelf makes it easy to choose a healthful beverage instead of a soft drink.

Making physical activity routine is important, too. Children naturally love to move their bodies. Take time every day to play with your kids. If the weather is nice, take a walk outside. If it's cold or snowy, turn on the music and dance in the house.




Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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