During a recent interview I was asked the following question, “What is the single most important thing parents can do to help their children be healthy?” 

The truth is there are many things that we can do to foster our children’s health, but every single one of them should first be adopted by the parents.

Little people are like sponges and are constantly learning from what they observe.  If we want them to grow up to be healthy adults, then we need to be showing them how to do it, not just telling them.

So, my answer was simple.  Parents need to be modeling the behavior that they want their children to have.

When I was a child, my mom poured a glass of milk for all of us to drink with dinner.  My dad loved milk.  My mom hated it! She never admitted it, but I would watch her hold the glass up to her mouth, pretend to drink and then smile at us as she reminded us how healthy it was.  I was six years old at the time and smart enough to know my mom could not stand milk.  At the time, I was not a big milk fan either.  However, I did learn that if my mom was pretending to like it, it must be important.  So I drank it, sometimes.

Now, as a nutrition expert, I realize that drinking milk was not the only way to get calcium, vitamin D and 7 other essential nutrients.  If only my mom had realize that she could have loaded up on other foods to get that nutrition, she could have enjoyed her food a little more.  But at least she tried and that is really what being a role model is all about!

There are many ways to show our kids how to be healthy.  Here are just a few to get you started:

  • Eat fruits and vegetables at every meal and discuss with the family why they are important.  Don’t expect children to eat something that you will not or try something that you will not try.
  • Let your children see you being physically active.  Family walks, games in the yard or talks about why your daily run or bike ride is so important.
  • Eat at the table not in front of the TV and encourage discussion about positive things that happened in their day.
  •  Make being healthy a priority and they will grow up to make it one too.  Do not allow children to see you putting good nutrition on the back burner.
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