Parents who want to see their kids get off to a healthy start this year should first take a look at their own habits, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“As a parent or guardian, you are the most influential role model in your child’s life,” said academy spokeswoman Kim Larson, RD.
A 2010 survey by the academy’s foundation supported her assertion: When children were asked what person they most wanted to be, their parents were at the top of the list.
“You may not be a perfect health model for your kids, but if they see you making a real effort to improve your own habits, they will start to realize that being healthy is important,” Larson said. “By eating healthy foods and making sure to offer them to their children, parents can give their kids opportunities to learn to like a variety of nutritious foods.”
Larson recommended parents take the same approach when encouraging their kids to be more physically active. For example, take the whole family on a walk together after dinner.
“Children don’t need to work out; they need to play with family and friends,” she said. “Children shouldn’t be counting calories or restricting their food. They need to enjoy regular meals and learn how to make smart, tasty snack choices.”
Larson and the academy offer the following tips for parents who want to make this year a healthy one for the entire family:
- Eat breakfast every day
- Enjoy family dinners together as often as possible, if not every night
- Let kids help plan menus, shop for food, and prepare and serve meals
- At meals, fill half of each plate with fruits and vegetables
- Make at least half of the grains the family eats whole grains
- Fit physical activity into every day
“Nutrition and fitness are great goals because they give us energy to do all things that we want to do. Whatever our age or size, we feel better when we take care of our bodies,” said Larson. “And by role modeling healthy behaviors, you’ll have the added benefit of seeing your children adopt a healthier lifestyle as well.”