by Christy Wilson, RD
You may not think twice about laying around the house on a sunny day, serving yourself heaping portions of food or perpetually sipping soda, but know that your kids are watching you.
They probably won’t talk with you about the health risks of being a couch potato or scold you about the abundance of calories you’re eating and drinking because, to them, this is normal.
Regardless of whether our lifestyle habits are good or bad, our kids perceive them as typical behaviors. If you want to pass along healthy habits to your kids, don’t just tell them what to do, show them you’re doing it, too. Kids are likely to follow our lead, so set a healthy example before your unhealthy behaviors become their lifelong bad habits.
If you do this: Serve yourself large portions of food at mealtime.
Try this: Divide and conquer your plate.
One of the best models to follow at mealtime is our national food icon, MyPlate (www.choosemyplate.gov). The message is simple and effective: fill half the plate with colorful fruit and vegetables; fill the smallest part with a lean protein (like chicken, fish or lean beef) and fill about a quarter of the plate with grains (preferably whole grains like whole wheat bread, oat and bran cereals or whole grain pasta). Eat fewer calories by eating off of a smaller plate.
If you do this: Rarely exercise.
Try doing this: Play outside with your kids.
In 2008, the Center for Disease Control reported an estimated one-third of our nation’s children and adolescents are overweight or obese and for the first time in two centuries, our youth are not expected to outlive their parents. This can change with lifestyle improvements like exercising more. Make exercise a priority by being active with your kids. Go outside and kick around the soccer ball, jump rope or shoot hoops with them. Have fun playing active video games like “Dance Dance Revolution” and “Wii Fit.” They’re sure to get you and the kids off the couch and on your feet!
If you do this: Keep junk food around the house.
Try doing this: Keep healthy snacks visible and always on-hand.
If chips, sodas and sweets are regularly purchased from the grocery store, the family is filling up on a lot of empty calories that can lead to weight gain. Upgrade those choices with nutrient-rich, low calorie foods like sweet and colorful apples, pears and grapes. Chewy raisins and crunchy freeze dried fruits like bananas and apples can be placed in a bowl on the table for quick snacking. Bring out a plate of crunchy carrots, celery and jicama sticks; they’re tasty, filling and naturally packed with vitamins.
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If you do this: Drink sugary beverages with/between meals.
Try doing this: Swap out the liquid sugar with water.
Sugary drinks like sodas, sports and energy drinks, juices and sweetened teas are nothing but extra calories with no health benefits. These liquid calories digest quickly and don’t satisfy our hunger as effectively as solid foods. Diet drinks aren’t much better as their heightened sweetness can stimulate the desire for full-sugar snacks like candies, cakes and cookies. Dump the sugar and the extra calories and drink water with or between meals. Don’t like the flavor of plain water? Brew and chill a pitcher of green, lemon or raspberry tea or infuse regular water with slices of lime, orange or cucumber and toss in a few sprigs of mint or rosemary.
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Christy Wilson is a Registered Dietitian and member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She has been working as an outpatient dietitian for 13 years and teaches nutrition focused cooking classes. Christy is a freelance health and nutrition writer and speaker. She recently launched her web site and blog, www.christywilsonnutrition.com and enjoys sharing healthy eating tips on Twitter @christyschomp. She resides in Tucson, AZ with her husband and two young children.