Healthy Eating, Healthy Kids: 8 Tips for a Nutritious Lifestyle
As parents, it’s our job to teach our kids how to lead healthy lives. The trick is to start when they’re right out of the chute, and to lead by example. If our daily lifestyle starts off with a trip to Starbucks, then we are not setting a very good example for our little ones.
Once they reach adolescence, all of their healthy eating habits may take a temporary hiatus, but if these habits are hard-wired into their brains, there is a good chance that they will eventually follow the breadcrumbs back to a balanced lifestyle.
Live to eat or eat to live?
There are two kinds of eaters; those who eat to live and those who live to eat. Being an athlete, I fall into the first category. I have a healthy relationship with food and am careful that my calorie intake does not exceed what I burn off through exercise each day. Some folks live to eat. Whether it’s out of habit or emotional comfort, this kind of a relationship with food can lead to weight issues, and potentially harm one’s health.
Eating healthy really isn’t rocket science, it is simply about discipline. Teaching our children how to establish a healthy relationship with food begins with us. The first step is becoming honest with ourselves in order to discover what category of eater we fall under.
Do we eat only when we’re hungry and quit when we are full? Or do we eat mindlessly, when we are bored or upset? We all have our comfort foods that we sometimes turn to, but if we’re making it a habit to inhale a box of Krispy Kreme donuts without even taking a breath, it’s time to take stock and evaluate our choices.
B-a-l-a-n-c-e is key
Living a healthy lifestyle is all about balance and discipline. It means we make a conscious choice everyday to exercise our body and nourish it with healthy food. Once we’re willing to change what eating means to us, we’re then able to change those bad patterns. These are some of the things that worked for me in my quest to instill healthy eating habits within my own kids’ lives:
Make a schedule
Maintaining our little one’s energy levels means keeping their blood sugar stable. So feed them three healthy meals and two snacks throughout the day. And don’t forget to keep them hydrated. Most of us don’t drink nearly enough water, so teach them early on. With balanced meals throughout their waking hours, our kids are less likely to be cranky due to dips in their blood sugar.
Know what a healthy meal is
As parents, we have to make it our business to do our homework and discover what foods provide the most protein, vitamins, and minerals, etc. We don’t have to get crazy with all of these new “superfoods”. There are plenty of old staples that still work! A peanut or almond butter and honey sandwich goes a long way, providing our kids don’t suffer from nut allergies, of course. Yogurt is also another powerhouse. Throw in some granola and fruit and you have a healthy and delicious breakfast or snack.
If we know that we’re going to be away from home for an extended amount of time, bring plenty of healthy meals, drinks, and snacks so that we don’t end up with over-stimulated and under-nourished screaming little people. Being unprepared leaves the door wide open for everyone to become irritable from low-blood sugar, and to end up in a McDonald’s drive thru. Try to avoid making fast food be an option – only a last resort (and sometimes a treat).
It’s amazing how many ways we can sneak veggies into our little people’s meals – verrry James Bond. I would put carrots and spinach in the food processor and then add the healthy combo to turkey loaf. And on a few occasions, I have been known to add beets to my brownies. To this day, my kids still don’t know (well, until now).
Breakfast really is important
There is a good reason that breakfast is called the most important meal of the day – because it IS. After 8 hours of sleep, our kid’s bodies and brains need fuel to start their engines. We have to make breakfast count for our little ones and make it a habit to start their day off with a healthy meal. That means avoiding sugary cereals and empty calories, in lieu of foods that sustain longer periods of energy, like oatmeal, eggs, or yogurt. It’s also a great way to create a ritual of family time to kick start the day ahead.
The more the merrier
In many cultures, families don’t just sit down to eat a meal, but they also gather around the kitchen while food is being prepared. When they were younger, I used to let my children help me pick fresh tomatoes or squash from our garden. I had an open-kitchen policy encouraging them to help prepare, and of course to clean!
Getting them involved meant more family time and also helped them recognize how much work it takes to prepare a meal. We each hold our own special memories from those precious and often hilarious times.
Teaching our children to value a healthy lifestyle is the key to them living a healthy life. It’s never too late to start, so throw out all the junk food – along with the bad habits – and begin making healthier choices today!
How do you make sure that your children have a healthy lifestyle and a healthy diet? Share your tips with us in the comments below!Tags : health nutrition