This is a guest post from our friends at Nourished Routes! Read about the great work they do below the article and be sure to check them out!
We all ask this question at some point: how might I help my family develop healthy habits?
Children model their behaviors from their parents and their environment, meaning developing healthy habits in your kids starts with developing healthy habits in yourself. To help your kids get an early start on healthy living, try some of these tips for establishing healthy habits together as a family:
- Model healthy eating
While it may be tricky to get your kids to eat their veggies every day, one step to making healthy eaters is modeling healthy eating habits yourself. Commenting on how yummy the veggies at dinner are, or how sweet and juicy your midday apple is can help kids be more receptive to these foods. If your kids see you turning your nose up at certain foods, they will be more likely to avoid those foods themselves. Even if you don’t like something, try experimenting with new ways to prepare that ingredient to see if you can change your own mind. Including your kid(s) in this not only could be fun, but also could make them more willing to try new and healthier foods.
- Involve them in meal preparation
Kids who are involved in the meal planning and preparation process are more likely to try new foods and have a more expansive palate. Have your kids pick out one new fruit or vegetables at each grocery run and give them age-appropriate tasks in the kitchen. When kids can see and interact with food, they are more likely to try them come mealtime. Teaching kids basic kitchen skills as they grow up can also help prepare them for independent life and cooking healthy meals on their own.
- Get active with them!
Kids enjoy physical activity more when the entire family gets involved and has fun. Compile a list of easy activities the entire family enjoys, like playing catch, taking a walk, or going to the park. Once or twice a month, try to find activities that involve movement, and have some ideas for rainy-day activities that still get you on your feet and moving as a family. Some ideas include:
- Taking a walk around the neighborhood
- Playing at the park
- Walking around the zoo
- Playing family-friendly sports like basketball, catch, tennis, or mini golf
- Have a family dance night on a rainy day, or spontaneous dance parties on any day!
- Visit an amusement and/or water park
- Building an obstacle course in the yard or a room in the home
- Go swimming in the summer
- Limit screen time. Enforcing rules around screen usage can help kids feel more motivated to entertain themselves and make them more likely to find physical activities to get their energy out.
- Don’t use food as an award
While it may seem counterproductive, avoid using food as an award for eating their veggies, playing outside, or getting a good grade. If we don’t put sweets on a pedestal, it may help reduce the risk of children becoming emotional eaters, as they will not grow accustomed to eating fun foods when something good or bad happens.
- Help them build self-esteem
Building healthy self-esteem and body image in early years is crucial. A poor body image can cause children to struggle in school, develop disordered eating habits, and may contribute to mental illness. Poor self-esteem can also contribute to teens making riskier decisions. There are a number of ways you can help your child develop a healthy body image, such as:
- Not commenting on their weight or body
- Teaching them about their body, how it works, and what consent is
- Teaching them healthy boundaries
- Modeling a positive body image by not making negative comments about yourself in front of them
- Avoiding making negative comments about other’s body’s around your kids
- Complimenting your child’s talents, personality traits, and performance in school
- Helping them solve their problems in ways they think will work, and knowing when to step back and let them make decisions for themselves
- Encouraging them to make choices that will help them grow strong and healthy, and taking the focus off of appearance and body size or weight.
- Encourage them to build strong and diverse friendships
With the COVID-19 pandemic and the rising numbers of children who have their own cell phones or computers, it can be difficult to get kids to build up their in-person friendships. Encourage your children to befriend a wide variety of people, especially those who come from different backgrounds. Doing so will help your child build a strong connection of friendships, learn about different people and ways of life, and help them develop social and communication skills.
- Be involved in their lives
While kids won’t respond well to a helicopter parent, being distant or allowing too much independence can have negative consequences as well. Being involved in your child’s life by offering advice and guidance, being a non-judgemental listening ear, and knowing what is going on at school and in their friendships is important not only for your child’s safety and wellbeing, but for their mental health as well. Fostering an open and honest relationship with your child will carry into their adulthood, and allow them to become more open and honest people.
Navigating how to establish healthy habits with kids can be difficult. Modeling the behaviors you want to instill in your child is the best way to ensure they develop lifelong healthy habits. Children are smart, and pick up on our behaviors, reactions, and words. By modeling healthy eating, enjoying physical activity, and practicing healthy self-esteem and mental health, you can help your child grow to appreciate and value the same things. Kids are more likely to participate in actions that their parents practice as well, so involving the whole family in health promoting behaviors can help kids feel more motivated to participate.
Nourished Routes is a Nashville-based nutrition consulting company. Their registered dietitians help families to implement a highly personalized whole foods approach so that they can enjoy food again and achieve a sense of empowerment and food freedom while feeling nourished and ultimately live their best lives. They help parents establish healthy eating habits in kids by providing resources, kid-friendly recipes, and more! You can schedule a free kick off call with them here.