Being a parent is no walk in the park, not even Central Park! No matter how desperately you want to be the perfect parent, no parent is or ever will be. Just a fact.

The good news is that, as parents, our job is NOT to be perfect, our job is to keep our kids safe and healthy and do our best to instill positive attributes that will make them decent (or decent enough) members of society.

Now, if you are raising your kids in a big city, such as New York, it can be even more challenging to raise safe and healthy kids because their backyard contains a lot of potential places and things that can affect their health and well-being.

Parents, then, ultimately need some sort of cheat sheet to raise healthy kids in a big city.

So here it is: the ultimate cheat sheet for raising healthy kids in New York.

healthy kids

Pack Their Lunches

A lot of parents know if they send their kids to school with a five-dollar bill for lunch, that five dollars will be spent on pizza and ice cream. Sending your kids to school with lunch money in New York is particularly risky, because New York is home to a plethora of restaurants, cafes, and deli’s. A10-minute walk to school for NYC kids can put them in direct contact with endless opportunities for buying high calorie foods that aren’t very nutritious.

So, don’t give them cash, give them a nutritious lunch instead. Include things like fruits and veggies, a quality protein, and some healthy snacks they can eat throughout the day.

Some good options to consider are:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Grapes
  • Apple sauce
  • Baby carrots
  • Cucumber slices
  • Celery
  • Hummus
  • Guacamole
  • Kale chips
  • Tuna fish sandwiches
  • Turkey sandwiches
  • Salmon or beef jerky
  • String cheese sticks
  • Whole wheat pasta salad with veggies
  • Nuts like almonds
  • Trail mix

Limit Screen Time

Studies have shown (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-causes/television-and-sedentary-behavior-and-obesity/) that sitting in front of the TV or computer playing video games, and other passive activities, can lead to obesity in children. Many of today’s kids are spending far too much time in front of screens and experts agree they should spend no more than an hour.

If you live in the city it means you have a plethora of cool activities for kids right outside your door to get them away from screens and interacting with life. Even just talking a walk around the neighborhood in NYC can turn into an adventure. Instead of streaming your favorite TV shows for hours every night, take a walk as a family.

Watch Those Backpacks

It seems that every year kids’ backpacks seem to be getting bigger and heavier. Beyond being cumbersome, can these bags actually be harming children? In short, yes.

A 2010 study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20023607) from the University of California, San Diego, concludes, “Backpack loads are responsible for a significant amount of back pain in children.” The same study reported that one-third of kids age 11 to 14 report back pain.

Kids in NYC don’t ride a school bus to school. They either walk or take public transportation, as in public buses and subways. Some kids have to take multiple buses or switch subway lines to get to their school. This makes walking with all of that extra weight even harder on their growing skeleton.

For this reason, it’s important to make sure their backpacks fit them properly and have padded shoulder straps, which will help alleviate some of the pain. It’s also important to check their backs each morning to make sure they’re not bringing anything unnecessary. For instance, some parents send their kids off to school with heavy water bottles, which can really weigh the bag down. Ideally the bag and its contents should only weigh 10% of your child’s bodyweight.

Make Dining Out a Lesson in Nutrition

Many families like to eat out at a restaurant once or twice a month. Often the choice of restaurant is a bit limiting in the suburbs or rural areas – but not in New York City! New York is a great place for food – every cuisine imaginable is available to you, sometimes 24/7.

For this reason, city parents should consider forgoing the usual pizza or burger joint and take their kids to restaurants with healthier options. Not only will your child be exposed to healthier meals at a sushi or Turkish restaurant, they will also be exposed to different cultures. That’s a win/win.

Stay on Top of Immunizations

Childhood vaccines protect kids from serious and potentially fatal diseases like polio, tetanus, measles and meningitis. By staying on top of your children’s vaccinations, you are helping to keep them healthy.

Though most parents know how important this is, they often have a hard time scheduling a doctor’s appointment for multiple children. Because they and their kids have incredibly busy schedules, it’s sometimes difficult getting an appointment that works for everyone.

One of the best things about raising kids in NYC is there are so many wonderful and alternative options for healthcare. For instance, UrgentWay has numerous walk-in clinics around the city. Whether you live in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx or Staten Island, you’ll be near a clinic that is open 7 days a week and, with no appointment necessary, you can simply walk right in when it’s convenient for you. Our board certified staff can make sure your kids are up-to-date on their immunizations as well as take care of any other medical needs you may have should your primary care doctor not be available. Raising healthy kids today is definitely challenging. Hopefully this cheat sheet will make it easier.

Author Bio: Nathan Bradshaw is an expert Health Care marketer and consultant who specialize in promoting tools and resources so physicians can do better.

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