Parent Superpower: Modeling Healthy Habits

Modeling. This behavior is one of the most effective parenting superpowers that can be used to gradually encourage our kids to do almost anything! Children look to us as THE example in all things. There is so much power to create norms - either health-promoting or potentially health-detracting ones - starting from birth. 

Before children grow old enough to leave the house and make independent food choices, they are a captive audience for us parents!  Of the many factors associated with eating behaviors of children, parents’ own dietary habits, as well as the home food environment, seem to be among the most important.

Studies have shown that pressuring kids actually backfires and results in lower fruit and vegetable consumption (Bassul et al. 2020). Not a major surprise, right?!

And, you know what happens when parents eat their own fruits and vegetables? The kids do, too.

The reality is that behavior change within families is a team sport.  Everyone wins when working together to achieve healthier living because parents are required to step up and make their own changes, too.

When parents start making their own healthy changes, it starts a ripple effect throughout the household that positively affects kids’ willingness to do the same thing.  I call that a win-win for sure.  

One of my favorite quotes is from Frederick Douglass is: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” This sentiment sums up how powerful lifestyle medicine — or building a foundation of wellness out of healthy habits — can be for children, especially. Adults often find lifestyle medicine when looking for a solution to an already established chronic disease, like obesity, hypertension, or diabetes.

But, what if we prioritize setting our kids up for success BEFORE any of these conditions set in? This success starts with establishing a handful of intentional healthy habits

  • eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables at every meal & snack time, 
  • making water the primary drink instead of sugar-sweetened drinks, 
  • engaging in regular physical activity (not ‘exercise’ per se, as active play for kids is the goal), 
  • managing stress healthfully, and 
  • prioritizing adequate sleep.

These habits are the golden keys we can pass down to our children. Without a doubt, the legacy of good health will be so worth the effort, planning, and dedication required to put these habits in to place. Our children are watching us and waiting for us to take the lead! 

Sources: Bassul C, A Corish C, M Kearney J. Associations between the Home Environment, Feeding Practices and Children's Intakes of Fruit, Vegetables and Confectionary/Sugar-Sweetened Beverages. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(13):4837.