Friday, October 14, 2011

Healthy habits we can learn from our kids

Parents are powerful role models, and healthy habits you adopt will help set a good example for your kids. But there are a few things you can learn from your kids, too.

With the help of Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, a registered dietitian and fellow nutrition blogger at Raise Healthy Eaters, I offer to you some excellent healthy habits that children can teach us -- if we let them. Let us tap into our inner child!

Get Moving: Even given all the health benefits that come with exercise, 50% of American adults still don’t get enough. Just like with our nutrition, the exercise habits we create when we’re young are usually carried over into our adult life. Young children skip, run, jump, and move everywhere they go. Moving their bodies is a fun activity that is as natural as breathing.

Increasing our daily physical activity is so important. We need to do less sitting, and be more active naturally.

Tummy Talk: 85% of parents say that they try to get their child to eat more at mealtime, according to a 2007 study published in Appetite. How many times have you insisted your young children to take a few more bites of food?

The fact is that kids are natural regulators of food intake. Even though a child’s eating habits seem irregular to adults, they eat when hungry and stop when full. We need to guard this innate ability in kids -- and, instead, ask ourselves if we are really still hungry or have had enough...for now.

Savor Every Bite:
Pure enjoyment. Ever watch a young child eat something that they love? There's not an ounce of guilt. Research suggests that guilt associated with eating -- labeling foods as good or bad -- causes people to eat more. Whatever you are eating, enjoy each bite and notice when you are satisfied. Sitting at the kitchen table helps you focus on the food and eat more mindfully.

Become a picky eater: While picky eating isn't always fun for parents, it's beneficial when kids are choosy about the not-so-healthy foods -- especially sweets. Whether child or adult, when it comes to foods without much nutritional value, be ultra picky. Fit in (and enjoy) your absolute favorites and leave out the rest.

No doubt, kids have a lot to learn about healthy eating. But we forget that some of the most basic healthy habits are innate, and little ones are great reminders of that. While this is true, children are going to be influenced by the adults around them. That’s why it’s so important that you set a good example. If you aren’t getting enough exercise it will be hard to explain to a child why they need to keep up their physical activity.  If you are incorporating healthy foods into your day, you kids will find interest, too!

Start making changes in your own diet and workout regimen and not only will you improve the chances of your child getting active to stay healthy, but you as well will feel the health benefits.

What healthy habits have you learned from your kids?

For questions or comments for the dietitian, please visit

Amber Massey, RD, LD
Registered Dietitian
Executive Health Program
Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth

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