In the lastest edition of Children's Health Magazine, Dr. Oz lists his 5 top health tips for parents.
By Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Besides heart surgery, my great professional passion is working with a group called HealthCorps—a program that places energetic, healthy young people in high schools, where they help students live better, healthier lives. Its message stresses mental resilience and the notion that even kids have the power to control their bodies and the world around them.
My wife, Lisa, and I have tried to impart that message to our own four children—the true joys of our lives—and I stress it to my viewers on The Dr. Oz Show. We parents have to be role models. I've distilled what I've learned along the way into these five ultimate health tips for kids.
1. Play with your food. Child obesity is a devastating health crisis. But so often the message for kids is strictly negative: "Don't eat junk food!" "Don't watch too much television!" Don't. Don't. Don't. The message about food needs to be positive if you want your kids to eat right for a lifetime. You've got to offer healthy foods that are fun, colorful, and interactive. Remember that kids want to discover, not to be told, so let them seek out their favorite colorful fruits and vegetables—foods that are packed with flavonoids and carotenoids to keep them healthy.
2. Eat that fat. The human brain is about 60 percent fat, which is one reason I encourage people to include healthy fatty acids, especially omega-3's, in their diet. These are wonderful brain boosters for kids. Nuts and certain types of fish, such as salmon and mahi-mahi, are great sources. If your kids aren't into fish, try Kids' Krill Oil, which is packed with choline and DHA, nutrients essential to the developing brains.
3. Be a copycat. Research shows that children are quick to pick up on their parents' inconsistencies. If Dad is a couch potato, then telling the kids to go play outside is a lost cause. Mirror neurons will activate in your child's brain and he'll model those bad behaviors himself. Don't just say it, do it: Live. Right. Now. Your kids will follow. Start by getting outdoors. More than half of Americans, including kids, may be deficient in vitamin D. Make sure the whole family is getting their daily dose, either through supplements or roughly 15 minutes in the sun.
4. Put down that homework. And turn off the TV—especially after bedtime. Kids need about 10 to 11 hours of sleep per day between ages 3 and 12. Young children who don't get enough quality sleep have more academic and behavioral problems, including oppositional behavior, defiance, and hyperactivity. I tell my kids that they can always do homework tomorrow, but getting back growth-promoting sleep is impossible.
5. Talk back. Focus on your kids during a conversation. I believe the most important predictor of success and happiness as an adult is whether you know that your parents loved you. Not whether your parents loved you, but whether you knew it. Make that clear in what you say and how you act. It increases oxytocin levels, so your kids will feel safe and can learn better.