The following post is a guest post by Jennifer Landis
Parents have a lot to worry about. In any ten-second period of time on any given morning, a mom or dad might ask themselves the following questions:
- “Did I pack lunches for today?”
- “Have all of the kids brushed their teeth and their hair?”
- “I wonder if my boss will notice I’m five minutes late … again?”
- “Did he just say what I think he said?”
- “Is that noise the cat or the baby?”
But with the news of rising childhood obesity and the long-term harm it causes to physical and mental health often in the news, healthy habits are constant concern for many parents of littles. Adolescent obesity has quadrupled and childhood obesity has doubled during the past three decades.
Families play a critical role in establishing healthy habits, which can positively impact children in school, in their physical health and in their mental and emotional development. Here is a look at how mom and dad can encourage healthy habits in kids.
Involve Children in Activities and Exercise
Good for you for waking up early to go to the gym before the kids are awake or lacing up after they go to bed for a jog around the neighborhood. Maintaining your own health is critical, and that time alone is important to recharge.
But if your kids never witness you exercising, never see you making that effort to raise your heart rate, how can they model it? Be sure to also incorporate physical activity into your time together, like walks around the neighborhood or family hikes. If it is cold or the weather is poor, consider activities for kids at your local gyms or even a walk around the mall or local superstore.
Remember Children Are Always Watching
Kids imitate the behavior they see from their parents. So if you are munching on potato chips and chocolate as you prepare dinner, they will want some also. If you don’t eat the veggies on your plate, why would they?
This goes for more harmful behavior as well. For example, studies show that children of alcoholics are four times more to have addiction issues as they grow up. So now is the time to address your own addiction, overeating or other harmful behavior. Your children can serve as an inspiration to seek help and will set you on the positive road to healthier living for you and future generations.
Prepare Dinner Together and Eat as a Family
A small but significant change you can make to encourage healthy habits in your children is to prepare and eat dinner together. Preparing the meal together will help them learn about cooking techniques and types of food while instilling pride in their accomplishments.
It will give you a chance to talk about substitutions you may make to be healthier, such as:
- “When my mom used to make this chicken, she would fry it, but I bake it instead to keep the fat and calorie count lower.”
- “We put one scoop of spaghetti on our plates and fill the rest with veggies to make sure we get all of the nutrients we need to grow strong.”
Further, the act of eating together as a family builds solidarity, encourages communication, and offers a break from the hectic pace of regular life. Studies show that children of families who eat together do better in school and are less likely to be obese.
Don’t Forget About Healthy Drinks, Too
With all this talk about eating and exercising, it can be easy to forget an unsuspecting saboteur of healthy habits — sodas and other sugary drinks. Some health officials call these drinks liquid candy, and one drink can provide an entire day’s worth of sugar in just a few sips.
And it is not just soda. Fruit juices, energy drinks, and drinks marketed to athletes are also chock full of sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. Be sure to check the ingredient label before stocking your fridge with these beverages to keep problems such as high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels and more at bay.
Better yet, buy reusable water bottles and keep them full and chilling in the fridge. It will be easy for kids to grab them when they are thirsty. If you want to add flavor, try putting in a few sliced cucumbers or frozen berries.
Help Your Kids Stay Healthy
Parents already have a lot on their proverbial plates. Thankfully there are simple ways to change your family tree for the better. A few modest changes, such as exercising with your kids, involving them in meals and meal decisions, and cutting out sugary drinks can help encourage healthy habits that will serve them well for years to come.
Jennifer Landis is the writer and blogger behind Mindfulness Mama. She is a proud wife and mama who enjoys eating peanut butter in excess, hates doing laundry, and is likely in need of a nap. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferELandis.