Raising a Healthy Eater for Life: 5 Good Habits to Instill Now
If you can find an excuse not to work out faster than you can find your gym shoes, you know how hard it is to get (and stay) in the habit of exercising regularly. If you are rushing out the door in the mornings with an empty stomach, only to crave a scone with your latte by 10 am, you know how easy it is to give in to your own settled tendencies. Maybe you even surreptitiously blame your parents for not instilling more discipline and all those better-for-you habits in you way back then, when everything wasn’t so darn hard.
Well, don’t dwell on the past. Guess what, it’s your turn now. Now you have the opportunity to raise a healthy eater. Now is the time to instill the good habits and discipline your child needs to lead an active and healthy lifestyle – today and in the future as an adult.
Eating habits are formed during early childhood and ingrain themselves as we get older. Once unhealthy eating habits have sneaked in, they often pervade throughout adult life and are extremely hard to break. Fortunately, the same is true for healthy eating habits. Establish discipline and good eating habits early on to give your children a much better chance at sustaining a healthy lifestyle as adults.
Oh… and there is one more thing. You first! If you expect your kids to develop good habits, you have to model healthy behavior for them.
Five Eating Habits to Instill Now:
- Start the day right with a nutritious breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Limit sugary cereals and packaged muffins. Better choices are fresh fruit, whole grains along with some protein. Serve your kids a glass of milk for their daily dose of calcium and Vitamin D. Fuel them up in the morning!
- Plan healthy snacks at specific times. Snacks between meals are just as an important part of a balanced diet for kids as breakfast, lunch and dinner. Healthy snacks sustain your child’s energy level between meals and help prevent continuous munching throughout the day, which can lead to overeating and eventually to weight gain.
- Sit down at the table to eat consciously – even for snacks. Eating while focusing on something else, such as the TV, a video game or chatting with a friend on the phone, makes it difficult to notice when you’re full and can lead to overeating. Encourage your child to eat slowly and pay attention to the feelings of hunger and fullness.
- Eat together as a family. Family mealtime should be relaxed and enjoyable. Make it a fun time of conversation and sharing. Even if this might be the only time of day when everybody is gathered together, avoid discussing problems or arguing at the dinner table. Children may gobble down their food faster to leave the table. Your kids may learn to associate eating with stress.
- Drink plenty of water! Encourage your kids to make water their drink of choice. The occasional glass of fruit juice is a great source of vitamins, but not the best choice for quenching thirst. Water is. Drinking too much fruit drinks with added sugar and non-diet soda has been linked to childhood obesity.
Extra tip: Guide your kids’ food choices, rather than restricting them! Make a wide variety of healthy foods available and positively reinforce their good choices.