On this health and wellness journey, I’ve struggled with my personal ups and downs, progress and minor setbacks, and it’s indeed become a personal journey as well as a lifetime journey. Recently, however, I’ve realized how much my own goals have positively affected my family. That modeling healthy habits for life for my husband and my son is important. What I’ve learned is that these healthy habits have affected the health of my family as well as my own.
The Process of Creating Healthy Habits
I have been overweight for as long as I can remember. I won’t even talk about this from a BMI perspective (you can read about my less than loving thoughts regarding BMI). I have the great fortune of carrying lots of muscle mass. This is fantastic for (list reasons), but can make the scale my mortal enemy.
My husband and son have had their own experiences with carrying excess weight themselves. And the truth is we’re not alone. An estimated 160 million Americans are overweight. As a way to combat this staggering statistic, I’ve seen first hand how our family has evolved both through unhealthy behaviors and more recently, much more healthy behaviors.
For us, the family that plays together stays together. And that couldn’t be more true while we all move towards a healthier lifestyle.
Healthy Habits for your Kids Means Healthy Habits for Life
Childhood obesity has reached epidemic levels in the U.S. One in three children are overweight or obese. This unfortunate statistic leads to more health issues as these children grow older including chronic diseases and rising health-care costs for parent and child.
In fact, this could be the first generation that actually lives shorter lives than their parents. (Yikes!)
Studies show that when parents are active and engaged in their children’s activities as well, that it creates a symbiotic relationship geared toward health. By working together as a family unit and eliminating triggers that impeded a family from making healthy choices, the family is more likely to be successful in achieving their health and wellness goals.
How to Model Healthy Habits for Kids
Regardless if your children are in high school or are barely even sitting up, it’s important to set goals and have strategies to improve the chances of your kids getting proper nutrition, while encouraging healthy eating choices. Here are five strategies I recommend:
1) Have set regular meals with the entire family. For some this might have to be breakfast, for others, dinner tends to be standard. Impossible, you say? What about an after school snack on the way to all the various activities?
2) Cook and serve a variety of well rounded healthy meals and snacks that encourage taste exploration, and also provide a range of nutritious benefits.
3) Be an example by making smart choices when it comes to food, snacks, and beverages.
5) Encourage your kids to help with the meal planning, prepping, and cooking processes. The more they’re involved, the more likely they will want to participate.
It’s impossible to be a perfect every day for every meal. Try your best, be mindful about the food you purchase, serve and eat. Take one baby step at a time and you’ll improve you and your family’s nutrition in leaps and bounds in no time.
How to Be a Healthy Role Model
It may sound almost too good to be true, but the easiest way to be sure your kids eat healthily is to model healthy eating for them. Kids tend to follow the lead of the adults that they interact with every day. When you eat a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, and are careful to avoid overeating food items that have little nutritional value, you send a message to your kids about how they can take the best care of themselves when you’re not around.
Let’s keep this simple. Where do you begin?
- Talk about the food.
- Include your kids in grocery shopping.
- Pick a recipe together and cook it as a family.
- Visit local farmer’s markets.
- Avoid the middle aisles.
- Challenge yourself to try something new every week whether that’s a new food, new cooking technique, make sure there are multiple colors on your plate.
- Make dessert part of your meal (instead of a carb).
- Don’t force your child to clean their plate, instead encourage them to eat until they are starting to get full.
- Sit at a table for each meal.
- Challenge the family to make meals last 20 minutes or longer.
- Use chopsticks to slow down eating.
- Talk about your day, ask questions, play games so that the meal takes longer. No electronics during meals.
tay positive in your relationship with food, as well as your relationship with your body. No food is “bad”, it’s about reducing quantities and focusing on foods that give energy instead of taking away energy.
Setting a Better Example for My Son
I changed the way I model healthy behaviors by merely embarking on this health and wellness journey. It’s impossible for my son not to observe everything I’m doing from my food choices to my workouts, and even the way I look and feel stronger. He is also seeing how I am making my self-care a priority. Truly an invaluable lesson as he enters into adulthood.
This has turned into a family movement that we have all embraced. As mothers, we often feel guilty for taking time for ourselves. Taking care of yourself is the best gift you can give to your family. It’s a great workaround if you can’t convince yourself to spend time and energy on your own improvement, just think of the ripple effect of positivity in your family as they passively absorb your lifestyle changes.
For me, I never intended to change my son’s behavior. But a happy side effect is that I’m seeing some real change happening within my family.
And something clicked.
We did some DNA testing and found out we’re all dairy and gluten intolerant. For us, gluten and dairy make us super tired and more prone to headaches. It’s not a crisis, the food just doesn’t fuel us and saps our energy.
Before this particular journey, I wasn’t as strict about maintaining his gluten free, dairy free diet, and it showed. My husband actually is the chef at home and does an amazing job with weekly meal prep and cooking. And we all reap the benefits from my planning and cooking more healthy meals both by feeling better and by being able to shed some pounds.
Here are two important tips that are super important as well:
- Don’t use food as a reward, or forbid certain foods because they are “bad.” – By creating a stigma around food, you increase a child’s inherent desire for it. Instead of saying no, limit how much they can have access to. When your child has earned a reward, choose non-food items including stickers, or having a play date with a good friend, a movie, or to pick out a new book or toy.
- Eat out responsibly. Just because you’re eating out, doesn’t mean you’re off the hook on making healthy choices and the same goes for your kids. Search for nutritionally dense items on the menu when dining at a restaurant. Things such as grilled chicken, veggies with dip or steamed broccoli, fruit, etc.
The Family That Works Out Together…
I love martial arts, and lately, my son has been joining me in my workouts. As an added benefit it’s something we do together that we both really enjoy. It’s a special bonding time and simultaneously builds upon the idea of healthy habits.
If your kid isn’t particularly into sports, take them for a bike ride on the weekend, or a family walk after dinner.
Children need about 60 minutes of physical activity every day, so it’s essential that you encourage them to get at least that and they will be more inspired when you’re doing it alongside them.
Practicing Mindfulness With Meals Is an Important Healthy Habit
Turn off all TV’s and remove phones from the table so that you can focus your attention and your energy on your food.
We believe that there aren’t good or bad foods, but instead, there are foods that make you feel energized and foods that drain your energy reserves. By listening to our body, and being mindful when we eat, we can help our son understand what foods make him feel good, and which ones are not-so-good.
It becomes more about what feels right to your body. Not always what you want to eat, but what your body needs you to eat. And often, if you’re attuned to your body’s natural hunger cues, you’ll know that your body really wants a salad or a big glass of water, rather than another donut.
When in doubt I tend to consult with this chart which I use as a guide for healthy behaviors for kids (spoiler alert, it’s not just about food and exercise!).
Some simple techniques to add into your routine:
- make sure 1/2 your plate is non-starchy veggies
- drink a large cup of water 30 minutes before meal
- if hungry grab water first
- if you’re hungry ask yourself would a plate of broccoli do? If not, you are probably feeling emotional hunger.
- At restaurants, share entrees or put half the plate in a to go box.
- If you have an alcoholic beverage with dinner, avoid other refined or simple carbs.
How Modeling Healthy Habits Has Been So Good For Us
As a result of my health and wellness journey, I am sleeping better, I have a lot more energy, and my son tells me the same is true for him.
What healthy habits challenge you? What healthy habits are you modeling for your family? Share this post on Facebook or Pinterest and let me know what’s working for your family.