As a busy parent, it’s easy to let exercise slip and to grab whatever food is available quickly or on the go. Skimping on veggies, heaping portions of unhealthy side dishes, and couch potato days may have become routine for you but perhaps not the habits you want to pass on to your kids. Unfortunately, the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ mantra doesn’t really work with little ones because they are watching you to model behaviors. Plenty of research has shown that instilling healthy habits in kids can provide lasting health benefits so here are a few ways to set a healthy example – and help kids follow your lead.
Unhealthy Habit #1: Serving yourself large portions of food at mealtime
A great visual aid for getting a handle on portion size and what your meal plates should look like is MyPlate. The message is simple and effective: fill half the plate with colorful fruit and vegetables; fill the smallest part with a lean protein and about a quarter of the plate with whole grains or complex carbohydrates.
Unhealthy #2: Not exercising
The Fix: Play outside with your kids
Kids need exercise just as much as you do, so make exercise a priority by being active with your kids. Go outside kick around a soccer ball, jump rope, play basketball or baseball, take a walk, or a bike ride. You can also chose video games that require physical activity like dancing to get you and the kids off the couch and on your feet.
Unhealthy Habit #3: Keeping junk food around the house
The Fix: Keep healthy snacks visible and always on-hand
If you keep chips, sodas, and sweets around the house the family is filling up on a lot of empty calories. Upgrade those choices with nutrient-rich, low calorie foods like fresh fruit, nuts, or whole grain trail mixes with dried fruit. Check out our Healthy Kid’s Snacks post for healthy snack ideas.
Unhealthy Habit #4: Drinking sugary beverages with/between meals.
The Fix: Swap out liquid sugar with water
Sugary drinks like sodas, sports and energy drinks, and juices provide calories with no nutrients. Not only does it add extra calories to your diet, sugary drinks can displace your child’s intake of healthier foods at mealtimes. Ditch the sweet drinks for water, or at least begin to phase out sweetened beverages by going 50/50 with half water. If you don’t like plain water, try adding slices of lime, orange or cucumber and toss in a few sprigs of mint to a pitcher to keep chilled in the fridge