A healthy lifestyle is the most important gift you can give your children. Healthy children are more likely to grow into healthy adults than kids with poor lifestyle habits. But for some families, healthy living feels financially out of reach. When you don’t have a lot of resources to work with, it’s hard to provide children the balanced diet, physical activity, and parental guidance needed to grow into healthy, happy adults.

While a limited budget makes healthy living harder, it’s not impossible. These are some ways parents can encourage healthy habits in children without burdening their finances.

Eating a Healthy Diet

Lots of kids are picky eaters, but allowing children to eat only processed foods isn’t good for their health. To encourage nutritious eating without turning mealtime into a battle or going over budget, take these tips into account:

  • Cook meals at home instead of eating out. If your child’s school lunches aren’t healthy or are too expensive, packed lunches can be made very affordably.
  • Limit serving sizes of new foods to reduce waste.
  • Offer water and milk instead of juice or soda, which are more expensive and offer limited or no nutritional value.
  • Reduce snacking. Children who snack between meals may eat fewer healthy foods at mealtime or overeat.
  • Shrink your household grocery bill by buying fewer convenience foods and using sales, coupons, and apps to save money on foods you already buy. If you have a Costco or other bulk grocery nearby, buy pantry staples in bulk to save.

Staying Active

Every child needs regular physical activity to stay healthy. Exercise fights childhood obesity and contributes to strong bones, hearts, and brains. Children who get enough exercise also tend to behave better than inactive kids. To raise active kids on a budget, try these tips:

  • Limit screen time and provide fun alternatives. Instead of sedentary gifts like video games and movies, check out deals on Amazon and other online retailers and give children active gifts like outdoor toys. If you shop at stores with free gift offers through sites like Rakuten, you may even be eligible to receive extra products at no cost.
  • Get kids involved in sports. School- and community-sponsored sports groups are more affordable than private clubs.
  • Save on sports equipment by mixing secondhand and new items. For example, you can buy used sports equipment from other parents and shop sales for athletic footwear and clothing at stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods.
  • Plan active family outings. Bike rides, hikes, and playground visits encourage physical activity and are cost-effective compared to trips to the movies or mall.

Managing Screen Time

Children should exercise for at least one hour every day. Unfortunately, sedentary activities compete for kids’ attention and less than a quarter of boys and girls get the recommended amount of exercise. Try these methods for discouraging screen time without making it seem like a punishment:

  • Wait until kids are older to provide smartphones. No-frills phones are budget-friendly and lets younger children stay in contact without the distraction of a smartphone.
  • Opt for a TV streaming service over cable television. Not only are streaming services significantly cheaper, but fewer options makes it harder to spend endless hours in front of the television.
  • Use parental controls to set time limits on kids’ TV and internet use. Automated timers restrict kids’ screen time without nagging.
  • Set rules around device use. If your kids struggle to pull themselves away from TV and video games, limit use for after homework and other responsibilities are met.

While all of these tips will help you encourage healthy living in your kids, there’s no substitute for leading by example. When parents model healthy eating, exercise, and screen time behaviors, kids are more likely to adopt those good habits themselves. If you’re a parent who wants a healthier future for your kids, your own lifestyle is the place to start!

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