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.
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 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 good (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.
As I mentioned above studies show that a child’s eating habits are learned early on. They are learned in the first year of life (J Law Med Ethics., 2008).
The interactions at the dinner table and food choices structure a child’s mentality of what to expect during meal time. If a child is given fast food constantly they are going to associate fast food with meal time 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 meal time.
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 eat right again. It just doesn’t come naturally for me.
I have had to slowly find things that suit my lifestyle and my exercising 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 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.
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 meal times. 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 about the day’s challenges and successes.
This is where one of the prime influences of 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 great articles you can further read about the influence on diet and exercise for 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 my own personal site. 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.