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Guest Post: Leading By Example: How Parents Can Encourage Kids to Make Healthy Choices

Today, we are joined by guest blogger Emily Graham, you can find more of her wisdom over at Mighty Moms.

Parents of healthy children tend to have several habits in common. They don’t make negative comments about others’ bodies, they don’t moralize about food (i.e. they don’t associate abstaining from some foods with “being good,” or indulge in other foods because they want to “be bad”), and, perhaps most importantly, they stock their kitchens with healthy foods instead of shaming their children for making unhealthy choices. 

Ultimately, it’s up to parents to be good role models when it comes to diet. Accentuating the positive and avoiding value judgments are important modeling behaviors. Integrated Mama wants your family to be happy and healthy, so read on for more practices that can encourage kids to make healthy choices:

Dine as a Family

Eating together as a family is one of the best ways to model good dietary habits. According to a study in Pediatrics, kids from families that eat meals together at least three times a week are 20 percent less likely to choose unhealthy foods. Additionally, letting your kids see you making healthy food choices at mealtime also helps reduce the likelihood that they’ll become obese or develop eating disorders later in life. 

Mealtime can also be an important anchor in your child’s life. It sets a rhythm to the day and adds structure to life. The predictability of the routine reinforces discipline and provides security, a much-needed piece of the puzzle for healthy families—especially kids.

Dealing with Anxiety

It’s easy to forget that children are under considerable pressure to do well in school, fit in socially, and make their parents happy. That can produce elevated levels of anxiety, which can be harmful and, in some cases, require some form of psychological or medical intervention. 

Prolonged pressure can result in low self-esteem, depression, sleep deprivation, an elevated risk of mental illness and even suicide. Always talk with a doctor about how best to deal with the problem, and ask about dietary adjustments that can help. It’s possible that magnesium, vitamin D, B vitamins, iron, omega-3 or another nutritional element is lacking. 

Turn Off the Screens

Americans of all ages spend a lot of time staring at televisions, computers, and smartphones. Dinner is one time when the screens should be put away. Meals are a time for the whole family to be present and communicating rather than instant messaging, texting, or surfing the internet. However, parents must be willing to turn off their own handheld devices at mealtime so they can eat mindfully and encourage their kids to do likewise. 

Being attentive at dinnertime encourages family conversation and creates a shared experience that’s emotionally nourishing. Kids who aren’t focusing on social media during dinner see their parents eating vegetables and nutritional foods, and that leaves a lasting, positive impression.

When kids are allowed screen time, make sure it’s both appropriate and enjoyable. Ensure their online safety through parental controls, and choose games that sneak in educational and developmental components. Lastly, make sure their experience is seamless by selecting an internet service that provides the power and speed games require.   

Other Positive Behaviors

Children are highly impressionable and likely to duplicate behaviors their parents model. If they see you drinking three pots of coffee a day, smoking cigarettes, or indulging in drugs or alcohol, chances are they’ll grow up doing likewise. Even if you’re not in the habit of exercising regularly, making an effort to stay active with your kids can encourage them to exercise as well. 

Be Diplomatic About Junk Food/Fast Food

Live Science recommends that parents avoid the outright banning of cookies, cupcakes, candy, and fast foods. A more effective approach is to minimize the number of unhealthy treats so kids are less likely to be tempted by them. If snack choices at home tend to be things like fruit, nuts, and yogurt, children will become accustomed to healthy snacking. 

Parental behavior is enormously influential. Kids who are used to seeing parents eating balanced, nutritional meals and favoring healthy snack foods are apt to do likewise. Make a habit of sitting down to meals together and avoid exhibiting negative, unhealthy activities. 

Look to Integrated Mama for more insights, information and ideas to help your family thrive.

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