How Parents Can Set Healthy Lifestyle Examples for Kids

holding vegetables and fruits

At this very moment, someone is watching you in secret. Everything you say and do is being absorbed and will later be copied with or without your knowledge.

Sounds creepy? Not really. These stealthy spies are actually your children, and their behavior is quite common. In fact, research shows that children often learn best by watching others.

Sometimes copying you can lead to cute, endearing moments. Have you ever walked in on your kid pretending to shave in front of the mirror, or with mom’s lipstick clutched in their little fist?

Sometimes, though, it can have devastating consequences. Childhood obesity is on the rise, and evidence points to the fact that these children are sadly learning this behavior from their parents. If you knew you were being used as a role model, would you change anything about what you’re doing? Do you like the example you are setting for your kids?

Setting a healthy lifestyle example for your kids is one of the best gifts you could give them.

Want to be a good role model for your children? Here’s how.

1) Lead by Example

Even as young as infanthood, your child is monitoring you for social cues.

As a parent, you’re given an incredible opportunity to help shape your child and give them the chance to grow into happy, well-adjusted individuals.

That means it’s more important than ever to act as a positive influence in their lives.

For instance, if your kids see you cheerfully chowing down on fruits and veggies during mealtime, they’ll want to copy you. They, too, will want to eat right.

If they see you struggling with yo-yo dieting and binge eating, they’ll also pick up on it.

Just as you’d watch your mouth to make sure you don’t accidentally blurt out any profanities that your child may learn, you should also watch what you put into your mouth.

Your kids are paying attention. And by seeing you demonstrate healthy habits, they’ll pick up on them, too.

2) Bring Healthy Meals Back to the Table

Kids can be extremely picky, and trying to find foods your children like to eat can be a serious challenge. However, it is possible to save money and eat healthy.

It can be very tempting to try to make a “special” meal of just chicken fingers or mac and cheese to satisfy young palates.

You’re going to have to resist that urge, though.

Studies have shown that the food you give your children now will directly shape their food preferences later on in life. If you encourage finicky behavior today, they may grow up to refuse healthy food later on.

You also need to make sure that mealtimes are a family event, with food served at the dinner table.

By establishing a set family mealtime, you can help make sure your kids grow up with these same healthy habits. Furthermore, you’ll also set them up for a better life in general.

Kids who eat family meals are more likely to make better grades, have better mental health, and are less likely to succumb to substance abuse.

3) Make Exercise Fun by Playing with Your Kids

Kids need at least one hour of physical activity per day.

While 60 minutes sounds like a lot to you, for a child, it really isn’t.

As an adult, you may think that exercise is a punishment for all of the calories you consumed earlier. For kids, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Kids love running around outside and staying active.

To help encourage this healthy behavior, you should consider lacing up your sneakers and joining them in their playtime.

Instead of seeing it as a chore, try something fun together as a family. Kids genuinely enjoy doing things like playing tag, a game of catch, or shooting some hoops with mom and dad.

Not only does staying active help your child maintain a healthy weight, but it can also help them develop a healthy brain, too.

Yep, regular playtime can actually make your child smarter. Regular exercise really is that important!

4) Don’t Use Food as a Reward

Imagine if your child came home with an A on their science test. Or they just won an important sports tournament.

Understandably, both you and your child are very excited. It’s time for a reward! You’re going to take them out for ice cream to celebrate.

Before you start using food as a reward for your child’s successes, think again. This only teaches your child that bad foods are a prize for good behavior. It also primes them to prefer junk food over healthy food.

Instead of bribing your child with food, find other ways to reward their efforts. Give them stickers or a little trinket to recognize their hard work.

Take them to the movies, or maybe tell them they can have a sleepover with their best friend.

But please do not reward them with food.

5) Let Your Children Get Involved

Teaching your child how to eat healthy at a young age is critical.

Their brains are growing rapidly, and providing them with a nutritious diet can give them a foundation for a well-developed mind and a healthy body.

The thing is, a healthy diet can vary from person to person. But it’s fairly well understood that children need a steady diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and lean proteins.

On the other hand, they really don’t need junk food like candy, soft drinks, cookies, and chips.

To help make sure your kids will eat what you serve them, get them involved in meal planning.

Take them to the grocery store with you and give them some say in what you buy and bring home with you. For example, have them pick out their favorite fruits and veggies.

When you’re at home, let them help in the kitchen. Let them rinse off fresh berries for a snack, or allow them to help you prepare a salad for dinner.

Praise them for their good work, and they’ll feel good about helping and will want to help more in the future.

By keeping them in the healthy-eating loop, they’ll look forward to eating healthy instead of turning up their noses!

Good Habits as a Child Can Mean Great Habits for Life

As a parent, your children are your whole world.

You love them and would do anything for them. That means that you’ll have to sometimes make sacrifices for their well-being.

Those sacrifices can be big or small.

You may try to get a promotion at work so you can give them a better life at home. You may also have to turn down the chips or cookies at home, though, too…especially if your kids are watching.

Being a positive role model for your children doesn’t have to be a painful struggle, though.

After all, you’re not just trying to teach them good habits you also want to live a long and healthy life yourself so you can be there for your children as they get older, too.

By taking these key steps toward being a healthier parent, you’re setting your children up for a lifetime of healthy success.

And honestly? When you look into their bright, innocent, and loving faces and see their futures reflected on them?

It’s so worth it. It really is.

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Trevor McDonaldTrevor McDonald is a freelance content writer who has a passion for writing. He’s written a variety of education, travel, health, and lifestyle articles for many different companies. In his free time, you can find him running with his dog, playing with his son, playing his guitar, or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.

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