As a parent, you are undoubtedly determined to create the best life possible for your children. And chances are, helping them to live a long, healthy life is part of the plan. This prospect can be daunting, however, especially if you are new to parenthood: After all, you are responsible for determining how to raise healthy children—and then doing it!
Rest assured, that you can raise healthy kids. It starts with focusing on being healthy yourself and creating an environment that instills healthy habits in your children. Read on for eight habits of healthy families.
1. Instill Healthy Habits Early On
To instill lifelong positive habits in your kids, it’s good to establish healthy patterns at an early age. If your children become accustomed to eating unhealthfully during their early years, it can make it more difficult to change their eating patterns later-on. By introducing their palates to various fruits and vegetables at an earlier age, they may grow more accustomed to the different tastes and come to like them, maybe even prefer them to unhealthy alternatives (it can happen!).
Exposure to different flavors, textures, herbs and even mild spices at a young age can also help build their palates to foods that are flavored by more than oil and salt. If they are hesitant, try introducing a new food in conjunction with something they already like.
2. Practice Mindful Eating
When considering different ways to be healthy for kids, consider when and where you eat. Eating while distracted by a TV, phone or computer is not ideal for either parents or kids, as distracted eating can lead you to eat more.1
Things can get complicated when food is used as a reward or punishment for certain behaviors, a method to soothe oneself or as a distraction.2,3 By changing to a mindful-eating mindset, focus on dedicating the time of consuming food to nourish your body. Try to set an example for your kids that eating is a mindful experience, paying attention to hunger cues and that when you feel satiated, you can stop eating.4
3. Plan Healthy Choices in Advance
If you want your children to make healthy food choices, make it easy for them by keeping an abundance of healthy foods in the house. Even better, have those foods prepared and ready to go so that eating something unhealthy does not become an easier option than choosing healthy alternatives.
When your children are hungry and looking for something to eat, make it easy for them to make a healthy choice. Whether it’s celery with almond butter, low-fat yogurt with fruit, carrots with hummus or a dozen different options in between, there are many healthy snacks that your kids are likely to enjoy.
4. Encourage Daily Activity
Exercise and movement are an important part of daily life. A good habit to develop is taking an evening walk or a bike ride as a family, go to the park or play a family sport—the possibilities are virtually endless. Team sports are also a great way to keep your children active—and they’re a good way to get social interaction, both for your children and you.
Whatever you do, make it fun and keep it consistent. The earlier you start, the more your kids can have the groundwork to continue living an active life, well into adulthood.
5. Eat Meals Together
Schedules can get crazy, and dinnertime usually is a hectic time with the race of commuting from work, after school activity and homework. But by creating a family dinner routine, it can help you and your children get much-needed time to reconnect after the busyness of the day.
If you can lead by example and sit with them, eat with them, talk with them, and be relatively consistent with dinner timing, this can be a time that you all can look forward to and try new foods together. As they watch their family eat and enjoy a food they may be unfamiliar with, they may be more willing to try it and enjoy it.
Eating together as a family can also improve your children’s nutritional health. According to the American Psychological Association5, when families eat at least three meals together per week, the children are 24 percent more likely to eat healthy foods when compared to families in which few or no meals are eaten together. The children are also 12 percent less likely to be overweight.
6. Make Sure Everyone Gets Enough Sleep
While eating healthy food and getting enough exercise is important, it’s also vital for children to get the right amount of sleep each night to function optimally.6 It’s good to start as early as possible on helping your little ones get good sleep and setting a nightly routine that they can come to expect, so that a focus on adequate, healthy sleep becomes a habit and a normal part of life. Also, if they know that every night they have the same routine, it may cut down on the “bedtime negotiations” of trying to get a later bedtime.
To help establish healthy sleep, try following your circadian rhythm, or the natural 24-hour cycle of light and darkness. The premise is fairly simple: Sleep when it’s dark and rise when it’s light; doing so not only helps ensure better sleep, but it can also help facilitate weight loss and improve many aspects of your health.
In addition to following your circadian rhythm, it can be helpful to create routines surrounding bedtime:
- Institute regular bedtimes.
- When getting ready for bed, remove electronics, which may interfere with restful sleep.
- Cultivate an environment of rest and relaxation that promotes restful sleep. This may include a bath or shower before bed, storytime, and then a dark, cozy room to sleep in.
And practice good sleep hygiene. Even though you may not go to bed at the same time as your children, it’s important to model healthy sleep habits for your children so they understand and value the importance of sleep for the entire family.
7. Avoid Negative Body Talk
Children are attentive to their parents and emulate what they see, so be kind to yourself and try not to dwell on negative aspects of your body. Instead, maybe focus on the parts of your body that you are proud of, and emphasize for them (and yourself) that everybody is different … and beautiful.
8. Be a Positive Role Model
One of the most important steps you can take to create a healthy family is to model healthy behaviors for your children. After all, if you encourage your children to adopt healthy behaviors but routinely engage in unhealthy ones, you’re sending mixed messages. Show them how to be healthy through your own actions.
Creating a healthy environment for yourself and your children is built on making simple, consistent choices over time. By making the decision every day to engage in healthy habits, you are helping to ensure better health for you and your children—not only for today, but for the future.
These are just helpful tips for you and your family to develop healthy habits, each family is different and always consult your healthcare professional for any health-related concerns.
Need some help implementing healthy habits of your own? Jenny Craig can help! Our approach to weight loss combines delicious, nutritious meals and one-on-one guidance from your own personal weight loss consultant. Contact Jenny Craig for a free appointment to get started today.
Elisa is a content marketing manager for Jenny Craig with over ten years of experience working in the health and fitness industry. She loves sharing her passion for living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. A San Diego native and an endurance sports enthusiast, you can usually find her swimming, biking along the coast highway or running by the beach in her free time. Elisa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University Chico.
Favorite healthy snack: mozzarella string cheese with a Pink Lady apple.
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