Hello Food Lovers! My name is Danielle Shea Tan, Certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach and Founder of Healthy Mamas for Happy Families. Annemarie was kind enough to invite me to write a guest blog post about how parents can raise healthy eaters. I’m very excited to share my thoughts with you, so please enjoy!
In your children’s eyes, you are superwoman (or man). At tumbling class, they think you’re Mary Lou Retton. At the pool, you’re Michael Phelps. And, in the kitchen, you’re Julia Child whipping up five star meals while they were out playing. Your kids think you’re the best thing since sliced bread. They want to be you. These are big shoes to fill, especially when it comes to eating healthy. Eventually their baseball coach will take over your role as Babe Ruth, but for the rest of their lives, you’ll consistently be their role model for what it means to eat healthy and have a positive relationship with food.
It’s no wonder that studies show moms who eat healthy raise kids who eat healthy. The flip side to this is grim: according to the University of Michigan, if even one parent is overweight a teen has an 80% chance of being overweight. This stat is staggering and definitely makes all of us sit up and take notice about how our eating habits may be impacting the long-term health of our families. Though tackling our personal relationship with food is a journey that shouldn’t be rushed, there are a handful of simple behaviors we can all start right now that model healthy eating for our family. Here are five of my personal favorite tips for raising healthy eaters:
- Make healthy food the most accessible option. Making healthy whole foods easily available will encourage you and your kids to reach for these snacks first. It’s as easy as putting fresh fruit out in a decorative bowl and strategically storing finger-sized veggies in the front of the fridge so little hands can grab as needed. You can even replace your cookie jar with a tasty trail mix that includes your favorite chocolate chips! Annemarie has some delicious, budget-friendly recipes that will help with healthy snacking.
- Get your kids involved in the meal planning process. Wouldn’t it be great to make one meal instead of a different meal for everyone? It’s been shown that kids who are involved in the family meal process are more likely to try new foods and eat what’s being served. Your kids can participate in planning what to eat, helping prepare the food, and actually eating the meal. Flip through cookbooks with your preschoolers, bring younger children to the farmer’s market to choose veggies, or include your older children in washing and preparing the food.
- Talk about healthy food and its benefits. Since the1930’s, Popeye, the cartoon character, has been an icon for showing how eating greens will make you big and strong. But you don’t have to be Popeye to get this message across successfully. Repetitive communication about the positive benefits of healthy food will eventually stick in your child’s mind, especially if the whole family is making healthy food choices together. Tell them about how berries keep them from getting sick and how greens will make them grow strong. It’s important to stay positive and make it fun!
- Eat healthy food as a family. The traditional family dinner has long been touted as a beneficial habit for creating a strong family unit. But nowadays, American families are juggling job schedules, commuting, and extra-curricular activities, making the daily family dinner hard to attain. If this is your family, don’t be discouraged. Eating together can be as simple as sharing a healthy snack of apples and nut butter, or making a breakfast smoothie together. The more often your kids see you choosing the healthy foods that you’re encouraging them to eat, the more likely they’ll eat them.
- Serve dessert with dinner. Yes, this strategy goes against everything you’ve ever been taught about no dessert before dinner. It may also have you yelling at the screen, “What?! My son will only be eating cookies.” It may seem counterintuitive, but studies show that using food as a reward perpetuates an unhealthy relationship with food and can lead to emotional eating. When we make unhealthy food “special” food, it gives these foods more value and kids will want them more and more. Take a risk, try this strategy for a couple of weeks and see what happens. First, start by including more healthy treats at dinner like frozen banana whipped into ice cream. As you notice the value of these former desserts diminishing, then you can start including tiny portions of the less healthy options too. During this process, the key is to fill the dinner plate with healthy foods your children love too so they will be more apt to eat a little of everything.
As parents, we all want our children to be healthy and happy. What we put into our bodies to fuel ourselves is the key to a healthy life. Studies are increasingly proving we are, in fact, what we eat and our best bet for raising a healthy family is to create a foundation of healthy eating. Use the strategies above to start making changes that will last a lifetime for your family. To ensure success, choose one strategy that fits with your life and once this is mastered, move on to the next. Best of luck!
For more information on my nutrition and lifestyle coaching services for busy parents and to receive a free gift to further enhance your healthy lifestyle, visit www.healthymamasforhappyfamilies.com. Use the savings code “RFRD15” to receive 15% off any of my programs through December 31, 2013. In the meantime, you can also follow me on my blog, Facebook and Pinterest.