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The Importance of Exercise and Diet: It Sets the Tone for Your Children

Exercising as a family

Please join me today in welcoming Breanna, also known as The Medical Mama, to the blog with this guest post. I first came across her blog a few weeks ago and right away appreciated the in-depth research she does on parenting, health, fitness, and more. She is helping women and I’m so happy to have her here. 

Your Child is Watching You

Have you ever sat and thought about what you put in your mouth? Have you ever sat and thought about what your child watches you put in your mouth? Or what your child sees as your eating habits and health habits?

I never really thought about it until I got bit by the “fitness bug” about a year ago. I noticed while my husband and I started counting calories and talking about it out loud our daughter started becoming obsessed with calories and eating.

Granted, she didn’t know what a calorie was or what it meant, but she knew it was important for getting fit and eating healthy. She then started making healthier choices on her own. I can proudly say, to this day, that she continues to make healthy eating habits a priority.

My daughter also got bit by the “fitness bug” and wanted to start doing yoga with me. She wanted to jog with me outside as well. I was completely on board with this and proud of her. She saw that I was trying to make an effort and live healthier. She then in turn wanted to make sure she was healthy like mommy and daddy.

The ‘Role Model’

You are your child’s first role model. From health and fitness to work ethics, your behaviors tell kids a lot about you, life in general, and how to behave.

Wow, that’s a lot of pressure. Not to worry though. I am going to talk you through this. You should know that food preference starts at a very early age. This means to start eating healthy in front of your child early on.

Offer them the same healthy choices that you choose. If they see you eating a lot of cookies and baked goods (I’m so guilty of this) then that is what they will want to eat too. “Mommy is doing it, so I want some too.” If you are eating carrots and ranch dip then that is a much healthier snack choice.

Your little one will automatically think “Mommy is doing it, so I want some too.” Do you see the difference? It’s setting the example, being the role model.

Studies Show…

As I mentioned above studies show that a child’s eating habits are learned early on. They begin learning this in the first year of life.

The interactions at the dinner table and food choices structure a child’s mentality of what to expect during mealtime. If a child is given fast food constantly they are going to associate fast food with mealtime making it the “norm.” Same thing with processed foods vs fresh food.

When they’re adults what do you think they will choose to feed themselves on a regular basis? You should be offering several different types of food choices regularly for the same reason. Expand their taste buds and give them choices. If they will only eat carrots because that’s all they’ve been offered they won’t learn to like other vegetables that offer other types of nutrients that they need to grow and develop.

Exercise has the same impact on a child. If they are never given the opportunity to expand their minds to a more healthy way of living and being active it probably is not going to come naturally for them when they are older. I was given the opportunity to choose healthy things during mealtime.

My mother cooked healthy meals every night. However, our family was not healthy in the sense of “working out.” We were not a very active family. As an adult, I never really wanted to be an active adult either. I struggled when I decided to get fit and avoid bad lifestyle choices like sitting too much and making unhealthy food choices. It just doesn’t come naturally to me.

I have had to slowly find things that suit my lifestyle and my exercise preferences. I love jogging outside. I do not like lifting weights or running on the treadmill. I love yoga. I do not like Cross Fit or anything along those lines.

How Do I Get My Child to Start Making Better Eating Choices? How Do I Get My Child to be More Active?

Getting more active with your kids
Are your kids inactive on the couch? Pexels photo, CC0.

Getting your children more active is hard depending on the age. At an early age, all kids ever want to do is run around. I swear they all have batteries that deplete throughout the day. After nap time they’re completely recharged and ready to go again. Teens are harder to get active. Think outside the box.

What is something they don’t normally do that would be fun for them? Swimming? Golf? Frisbee? Tennis? Choose options they don’t normally get the opportunity to do. For our daughter, it’s ballet and gymnastics. You should engage with your children as well. If they’re older and they enjoy doing their own thing for exercise that’s different. I can’t do ballet and gymnastics with my daughter. However, I have my own love (jogging).

Make sure you are their #1 fan! Root them on with whatever they’re doing. This helps encourage positive reinforcement. You should also be limiting time with electronics. Electronics are not a bad thing, but they are one of the number one reasons children are not active today. They should be closely monitored all the way from content to time spent on them.

Kids eating
Never force your children to eat everything on their plates or in their bowls. Pixabay (CC0).

You should never force your child to “finish your food. I know growing up our parents taught us we weren’t allowed to leave the dinner table until everything was gone off of our plate during meal times. This is a very unhealthy habit actually.

When you are forcing your child to finish too much food that is when their little tummies start expanding from excess food. Each time they sit down to eat a meal they will want more food. This trend starts the unhealthy eating habit of overeating.

You can get your child to start making healthier eating choices by offering them healthier eating choices at mealtimes. Again, set the example. Be the role model. Set the expectations early on. It is never too late. Someone I know has a son who was told by their pediatrician that they were starting to gain weight and develop adolescent obesity.

The mother took him grocery shopping and let him pick from several different healthy options that were a much healthier choice. He was able to pick meals and snacks for himself. You can do the same. For a child of any age they feel empowered by their decisions and they still feel like they got to make that decision. As a parent, this is a great choice because you know they are making a healthier choice for themselves.

The Importance of the Dinner Table

The dinner table in my home has always been the one place where I know we will spend quality time together as a family. I have a strict “no electronics” rule at the dinner table. This is a great place to congregate and reflect on the day’s challenges and successes.

This is where one of the prime influences on a child’s life comes from. This is where they learn eating habits. This is where they learn manners, where they learn to share, and take turns. This is where the family unites and encourages one another. You can safely discuss your day’s challenges with your family and know that they are going to encourage you to do better the next day. Do not underestimate the power of family dinners.

Don’t Forget to be the Role Model!

As always, you are your child’s first role model. You are their #1 and they are yours. There are a couple of great articles you can further read about the influence of diet and exercise on children here. There are also plenty of great resources below.

How have you lived a healthy and active lifestyle? How has that directly affected your children’s habits? I would love to hear from you.

About today’s writer

Hi there. My name is Breanna and I am The Medical Mama. I want to first and foremost thank Christy B for allowing me to guest blog.

You can follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, and on my own personal site [Update April 21/2022: Breanna’s website is no longer active]. I am a mother of 2 beautiful little girls., 5 and under. I have a background in nursing (Pediatrics) and education (K-12). Again, thank you for having me and reading my article today.

38 thoughts on “The Importance of Exercise and Diet: It Sets the Tone for Your Children”

  1. Great tips. Although I’ve always been really active, tearing my son away from his video games was always quite challenging. Funny, now that he’s an adult he teaches fitness classes!

  2. Such an awesome  pictures like this as I view the pictures in your post.

     You really make my day reading and viewing this one.

    Thanks. Again. You can check me up on my blog also

    Peace ✌and Love ❤

  3. Great Post and lot to learn from parent prospective.
    We can give better option to our child so they can live better and healthy life.
    Thanks for writing !

  4. Fab post! Wish I had grown up in a time when some of these tips were bandied about. However, there was no internet or video games, and we were relegated to 1 hour of TV a day. We played outside, rode our bikes, skated, ran and built snowmen. It was a very physical childhood. The awful diet was supplemented by cod liver oil. {{Yuchhh}} The female role model, other than wife and mother was discouraged.Thank you Breanna and Christy!

  5. Great post. Wish I read this when my little girl was a toddler. We taught her so many bad eating habits, she now struggles with her weight. I wish I would have done things differently with her. Thank you for posting this that way others can learn

  6. Great post, and I totally see your words as a reflection in my life. My mom was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at a young age, so she always ate well and exercised to help maintain her health. I’m not the most healthy person in the world, but at least I had that exposure early on, so the idea of eating for health comes naturally to me.
    My parents also encouraged me to be active. I took dance classes, then horse-riding lessons as a young girl. My mom would work out to aerobic videos every morning, and eventually I started joining her. I remember how happy she was when I asked if I could work out with her.
    And lastly, I definitely see your point about telling kids to finish their food. Not only does it affect them physically as children, but these lessons overflow adult lives, and they will have some hard, subconscious habits to break if they want to maintain a healthy weight later. This is something my parents never made me do, but I have seen the results of this in other people’s lives. Sometimes people naturally gravitate toward finishing all of their food even if they’re not hungry, because this is what they were taught to do as children.

    1. Type 1 diabetes makes you check your diet really well. You have to think about every little thing you put in your mouth and how that will affect your body (as everyone should be doing). I think it’s awesome your parents kept you active as a child too. I try to do the same with my daughter. She is getting ready to start ballet. She has done gymnastics then wanted to stop. So I’m about to put her back in to that as well. She does swimming too. I get so happy when she asks to work out and exercise with me. And yes, eating everything on the plate is not healthy for children as well as adults. It’s hard to break that habit once we start doing it.

  7. Well done to you, Breanna; being and staying healthy is so important.
    I was very fortunate as a child to have two active parents. There was little money so we ate most vegetables and fruit from the garden; no take-aways in those days, and ate basic nourishing home cooking. My father also ran a judo club of which I was a member. I loved sport and played with the neighbourhood kids every day in a park across the road. My parents, without knowing, instilled good habits in their children which I continue today. I have indeed been quite fortunate, and can only agree with your advice and practical actions.
    Once again, a brilliant post.

  8. “You should never force your child to “finish your food”. I know growing up our parents taught us we weren’t allowed to leave the dinner table until everything was gone off of our plate during meal times. This is a very unhealthy habit actually.”

    *** Why not start with using smaller plates? Simple ideas aren’t so dumb.

    1. I agree. We actually use a “kid sized” plate with our 5 year old. She eats like a bird, so I don’t ever push the issue of how big or small her portions are. I think if we just start with the recommended healthy portion and stick with it then we can avoid overeating and other health issues.

  9. Wonderful post. My girls are grown now and an additional tip I gave them was to never diet. I felt it was better to eliminate pop, fried foods, chips, and other culprits and to step up the physical activities. I began the yo-yo dieting disaster after they were born, and for every pound I lost, I gained two more.Luckily, they’ve listened.
    Congratulations on your new baby!

    1. I think eliminating a lot of “junk” food is a great option to staying healthy. You would be surprised by the results of just leaving out those type of food choices. And thank you so much! She will be here March 5th (6 more days).

  10. Great stuff Breanna and Christy! We always tried to set good examples for our kids when they were growing up, including shared meal planning and taking group karate lessons with our kids when they were in high school. We must have done something right, because now our children, ages 26 and 22, have turned our advice back on us and are encouraging my husband and myself to be more active and watch our diets!

    1. I am exactly like your kids then. I am always encouraging my parents to eat healthier and get out and exercise. I was actually not raised with the influence of being “active” at home. So for me it’s so important now that I lay that foundation for my child.

    1. That’s awesome that your teens are making healthy choices on their own now. I hope when my daughter (she’s 5 years old) is older that she continues to make the healthy choices she is making now.

  11. Great post, Breanna! It’s so hard to navigate these issues as a parent–these are really helpful tips, and a good reminder that sometimes it’s the simple things that have a huge impact. We have similar rules for the dinner table, and we’ve always made a point of asking our kids (aged 3 and 5): what was the best part of your day? It’s become such a habit that they now ask each other every night, and will often ask guests the same question at dinner. Something simple that helps us all connect and think more positively about our days. I think it’s fantastic that you’re running and doing yoga and being such a inspiring role model for your little one. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Thank you for the kind words. I never thought about asking those questions to guests. We have some friends who we have dinner with every Sunday evening. I think I’m going to start asking those questions to our guests as well. Great idea!

  12. Limits teach kids how to keep themselves safe. Although it might be safe for your child to play outside, he might need limits about what he’s allowed to do or where he’s allowed to go when he’s playing outside alone.

  13. Great post , loved the points of taking kids grocery shopping and making them choose healthy snacks ,no electronics at the dinner table being some of them and it is true parents are the role models for children! Thanks for sharing!

  14. Super guest post today … my children are 19 and 17 but I have many happy memories of taking my daughter to the gym and sharing classes with her and aches and pains afterwards (the healthy sort, when you’ve pushed yourself I hasten to add!). She hated PE at high school, as do many girls sadly. My son on the other hand did rugby outside school for 8 years and then javelin (and still throws to quite a high standard I might add and trains twice a week for his athletics club). So it was my daughter who needed a little push. She now lives and works in London and has just joined a gym there and has started spin and body pump classes for a) fitness and b) to make friends. I’m so relieved as I can’t be there every step of the way but I have no doubt that our sharing the gym a few years ago left a mark on her .. x

    1. That’s awesome! I try to do classes with my daughter at the Y. Sometimes they let the parents join in, but I try to keep her as active as I can. I also try to make sure she sees me exercising and living a healthy lifestyle.

    2. You’re doing a great job.
      We know that exercise release happy endorphins and she’ll see the benefits emotionally as well as physically .. well done you!

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