Multiple studies show a positive correlation between parental body image and diet and those of their children. Parents are one of the main influences on whether a child will have a healthy or unhealthy lifestyle. Children are masters of mimicry — “monkey see, monkey do” is absolutely the rule with kids and parents. So if parents eat well and make sure that exercise is an important part of their lives, their children will most likely follow their example.
It’s so important that you live your life the way you want your children to live theirs. You can’t eat junk food or excessive sweets, or be a couch potato, and then expect your kids to be fit and healthy. It’s the saddest thing when we see young children who are chubby. In almost every case their parents, or at least one of them, are grossly overweight as well. Heaviness seems to be the norm in some families. It is up to you, the parents, to see to it that both you and your children are not overweight.
Here are 15 Ways You Can Be a Healthy Parent With Healthy Kids:
15. Start before your child is even born. Exercising during pregnancy is a great way to keep yourself in shape and feel good. The kind of exercise, and how much exercise you should do, changes throughout pregnancy. Talk with your doctor to decide what is safe for you. And of course, eat well.
14. Exercise when they are toddlers. Tri-wheeled strollers are made for running and as they start to comprehend that mommy or daddy — or both — is running, your children will think this is the norm.
13. Start your family exercise program as soon as possible. Exercise for children takes many forms, including playing outdoors, going on family walks, riding bikes, or swimming. The most important thing is to get children to move so they are used to it. The more familiar and comfortable they are with it, the more likely they will be to continue to stay active throughout their lives.
12. Plan activities that are fun for your children. Family walks, bike rides, pool days, and obstacle courses are all great activities.
11. Participate in family sports. Several sports can include family participation for young children, like soccer and tennis, which are sports that many children, as young as three, can participate in to some level. Golf is another sport that many young children can play that teaches important physical skills, like hand/eye coordination.
10. Curtail usage of the internet and computer games, which foster inactivity.
9. Inclement weather days, especially in our northern states, can be a challenge to fitness. Anything that gets your child to move, on days when going outside isn’t an option, is good. Sit-up competitions and wrestling are great ways to keep kids active inside. Join a health club with a swimming pool that allows all ages to use it if you live in a climate with severe winters.
8. Also plan fun outdoor activities. In winter try healthy activities like downhill and cross country skiing or ice skating. The more your children move at an early age, the more aware of their bodies they will be and the more comfortable they will be doing more physically challenging activities. Even those who live in warm climates like sunny California can take their kids skiing or ice skating.
So now you feel you’ve got family fitness figured out and under control. The next thing to address is your family’s eating habits.
7. Diet is very important in family life. Even if parents eat well, children can pick up unhealthy eating habits from their peers. While it’s impossible to control your child’s eating habits 100% of the time, reinforcing the good habits at home will go a long way in helping the child to make good choices when the parents can’t be around. Always make sure that they get a good breakfast. Make time so that it can be as much of a family meal as possible and they don’t have to rush through it. Setting a good base for your child’s day is a major factor in their performance that day, both mentally and physically.
6. Children sense dishonesty in adults, so parents should live honestly healthy lives. Knowing that children are impressionable, try to be as appropriately honest with them as possible. If you want them to eat healthy food, you and your spouse must eat healthy food as well. Having a healthy and tasty dinner together should be the family norm.
5. If you send lunches with your kids to school, finding a healthy mix of food can actually be an easy task, and it doesn’t have to be expensive! Make sure they get a good mix of fruits and veggies. Some good lunch foods are carrot sticks, apples or apple slices, celery, pears, bell pepper slices, and bananas. Sending a small amount of nuts (cashews, almonds, etc.) can be a good way to get some protein in your child’s lunch. Hard boiled eggs, raisins, and granola are also good options. Filling your child’s lunch with healthy things they like will help ensure they eat what you send with them.
4. When shopping for food, take children along and read labels together to see if the items are healthy. The sooner children start to learn about shopping for healthy food and reading food labels, the quicker they will learn to look for healthy things and make smart choices. You can even make it a game: tell them you are looking for a certain item and have them try to find the option that has the least sugar or saturated fat.
3. Don’t keep sweets in the house. Nighttime snacks of fruit are great for your child. Buy the fruit that your child says he or she likes. If it’s not in season, then frozen fruit, like berries, is the next best thing.
2. Eating well when going out to eat or eating at friends’ homes can be a challenge. However, many restaurants list the nutritional information of their dishes nowadays. If you can’t find it on their website, there are websites that collect this information and post it online. If you have instilled in your children the importance of eating healthy food, they are more likely to make good choices when at a friend’s house. Eating chips and dip at a friend’s house isn’t going to ruin your child if they do it once in a while. However, making it a habit is not advisable.
1. Moderation is the key component to making a good diet palatable to children. A sweet here and there isn’t going to destroy all of your hard work to maintain a healthy diet, but don’t use sweets as a reward.
Remember, if you live well, you’ll be able to see your children start to make independently healthy choices as they grow. Maybe they will ask you to go for a bike ride with them or ask for a healthy snack. It’s important to foster these attitudes and reward them. Taking time to go for a walk or play in the park goes a very long way in developing your child’s desire to be active, and will create a strong bond as well!