One of the best ways to prepare your children for a long and healthy life is to get them started early with their own healthy habits. This is best taught by example. When the entire family practices healthy habits, they’re more likely to stick with your children for life. In our household, we don’t restrict treats altogether, but we have brought Valentina up on healthy food from the start. I had to laugh when she met Anna (from Frozen) at California Adventure park last week, and when Anne asked her what her favorite chocolate was, she promptly answered “Actually, I don’t eat chocolate, I don’t really like sweets”! Here are some tips for creating healthy habits for life:
#1 Drink water. Most of us just don’t drink enough water. Sure, we’re hydrated but it’s often with calorie and sugar heavy beverages. Skip the soda, juice and sweetened drinks and stick to water. It may be a tough transition for the entire family. Make the change gradually. Adding a drop of an essential oil like lemon or lime can help make it more interesting.
#2 Consume far less during mealtime. We’re a super-sized society – my family from overseas are always in shock when they visit to see the size of the portions in the Unites States. We’re accustomed to eating a lot during mealtime. Work on eating smaller portions during mealtime. Serve more vegetables on the plate and less protein and starchy carbohydrates. I think kids are inherently good at knowing when they’re full, so don’t push them to clean their plate just for the sake of it.
#3 Move your body. Find a way to be active each and every day. Walk or bike to places when you can. Take hikes and family walks together. Play sports or engage in physical activities. The more you’re active as a family and on your own, the more your children will be active too. An active lifestyle is key to a healthy mind and body.
#4 Appreciate food for what it is. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying food and consuming treats in moderation. When people have a healthy appreciation for food, they eat healthier. However, when they use food to soothe their emotions or as a reward, it creates a misguided relationship with food. Children will learn to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Parents can help by not using food as a reward or punishment.
#5 Make more food at home. Takeout and prepackaged foods are sometimes necessary, but they’re usually not healthy. However, when a family makes food at home using fresh produce they’re more likely to eat healthy and to develop a healthy relationship with food. Make cooking a family activity on the weekends when everyone is home together.
#6 Eat less sugar. Sugar is in just about everything we eat. It’s in bread, sauces, it’s sometimes even in lunchmeat. Help your family break the addiction to sugar by choosing low sugar and no sugar options. Cookies and snacks are okay occasionally but they shouldn’t be an everyday choice.
One of a parent’s most important responsibilities is to be a good role model. As your child grows they’ll learn about healthy habits from you. They watch, they emulate and they adopt your habits. Creating healthy habits as a family will help your children grow up healthy and strong. They’ll take the habits they learned as children into adulthood. I know this was true for me, being brought up by a super-healthy Aussie mum. We were allowed McDonalds once every school term, and the occasional bowl of ice cream as a treat. I might not have loved it at the time, but now I’m grateful for it as it gave me a good foundation of health, and an underlying love of good, healthy food.