We try to make good health choices for ourselves. It is only natural that we want to share what we know with those who are closest to us. Teaching our families and children about good healthy habits can be a lifesaver and a life extender for those we love and take care of. Here are some suggestions for encouraging positive attitudes about food and weight for a lifetime of good habits:
Encourage your family to eat breakfast each day. Having meals together is a great way to interact and to strengthen your family bonds. When you have uninterrupted time you can talk and enjoy each other’s company. Make meal time one of those times. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It kick starts your metabolism and lets it know it is time to get moving. Having dinner as a family is a great way to end your day and discuss important things that may have happened during the day. Serving two vegetables at dinner will help expand family health and allow experimenting with good foods to find those that you like. The more you try, the better it is for your health. Teach your kids to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day, and with every meal.
Encouraging smaller portions of foods helps the family to eat a good balance without over doing it. Many restaurant servings are 2-3 times the normal portion size. Educating you children early about portion sizes will help them stay healthy and fit.
Even with eating healthy it is difficult to get in all the needed nutrients into diet alone. Teach your kids to take a multi-vitamin every day. This ensures that they are able to have all the necessary nutrients to help their growth and development. Children need good oils, if they don’t like fish, soy and other foods high in good fats, encouraging fish oil supplementation could be a great asset to their health. Make sure you discuss all supplements with the pediatrician first.
Walking your children to school when possible can help get children moving and will also help you to increase your metabolism and burn some calories. If school isn’t within walking distance, try walking other places such as to a friend’s house, the library, grocery store, or park. Try to walk, hike, or play games three or more times a week as a family. Learning to ride a bike and taking family bike rides is another great way to spend time together and get that workout in.
Involving your kids in planning and preparing meals will teach useful skills, but can also be a great teaching time to explain good nutrition. Meeting as a family to plan dinners for the week and making assignments for preparation, cooking, and clean up, helps foster independence and responsibility. If you feel limited in the types of meals you’re making, learning to cook together could be a fun experience and an opportunity to try new things. Sign up for a cooking club or register for a community cooking class. As you explore the world of food, it becomes easier and more fun to add variety to your family’s diet.
Remind kids that healthy and happy bodies come in all sizes. No one body shape or size is a healthy one or the right one for everybody. Just as flowers come in different shapes, sizes and colors, so do people. We need to be tolerant and kind to each other no matter what we look like. Teaching this tolerance to our children will make them better people and the world a better place for all of us!
Never put your kids on a diet without first consulting a doctor. Kids, just like adults, need to eat a variety of foods and get enough exercise. Cutting calories or restricting them too much in their food choices can cause rebellion and anger. Lead by example, if you don’t buy it they can’t eat it. To eat unhealthily and then be upset with your children for doing the same thing is counterproductive. While parents should be concerned about weight for health reasons, they should also be careful not to nag, pick on kids, or name call. This could permanently damage your relationship. Parents and kids should not only watch what they say about others, but what they say about themselves. Teaching your kids to like and accept themselves is one of the most important parental tasks.
If you can make healthy eating and activity a ‘matter of fact’ way of life instead of a big production or discussion, you and your family will be way ahead of the curve, and your children will be able to start life with a good foundation of health.