How to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthy: It Starts with You

When you think about it. It’s really tough to gauge how well we’re doing as parents. While we were in school we received grades on each assignment and report cards a few times a year. Most jobs have annual evaluations or reviews. We have bosses who provide feedback and/or customers who either come back for more or take their business elsewhere. Either way we can pretty much tell how we’re doing. But as parents, we don’t get report cards. There are no annual reviews. We don’t get a bonus if we had a good year.

That moment when your kid lets you know, “you’re not so bad”

If you’re like me, there are days when you feel like a complete failure in your position as a parent. Days when you’re glad there isn’t an annual review for your parenting performance, because if there was your kids may choose to “go in a different direction.” Every once in a while though, there are times when your kids provide some positive feedback. Feedback that let’s you know that you’re not completely screwing them up. Last night I had a moment like that. I was driving Gehrig, my 10-year old, home from his ice hockey practice. As we were talking about our day he said something that made me feel great. He said, “At lunch we were talking about the kinds of food we eat at home. I said, ‘Pretty much the only thing we eat in my house is healthy.’ Then Alex (one of his buddies) said, ‘Yep. He’s right. His dad even made waffles out of whole wheat when we spent the night for his birthday.'” I asked Gehrig how that made him feel. He said, “I’m proud of it. I’m glad that I can be in a conversation and be the one kid who eats healthy.” Once I stopped beaming with pride and got over myself. I began to wonder how many kids really know what good nutrition is. More importantly, how many kids know why good nutrition is important?

Where do kids learn about good nutrition?

If we’re raising athletic kids, they need to learn and understand the importance of good nutrition. Just because they’re getting a lot of physical activity doesn’t mean that they’re “healthy.” One of the best things about youth sports is that they help kids develop an active lifestyle. But our kids also need to be developing good eating habits that will stay with them for life. It’s my belief that schools can teach nutrition lessons all day long, but it won’t do any good unless kids are practicing what they learn. Until kids can do the grocery shopping and cooking at home, they don’t have much control over what they eat at home. So that puts the responsibility on us. (As it should be.)

Leave them no choice

If there’s more fruit and vegetables in your house than snack cakes and chips, then your kids will eat more fruits and vegetables. If they’re hungry and all they have are healthy choices to select from, they’ll pick them. Even if they’re not thrilled about it. But after a while something really weird will start to happen. They’ll start to like the healthy choices. Because our body craves what we feed it. When you’re used to eating fattening, fried food, and sweets, your body will crave fattening, fried food, and sweets. When you adopt a healthy diet full of lean proteins, limited complex carbs, lots of fruits and vegetables and water, that’s what your body will begin to crave after a while.

Let kids be kids … in moderation

We don’t need to be food Nazis and control everything that our kids eat. It’s fine for them to have pizza and cake at their friends’ birthday parties or some frozen yogurt after the game. Just make sure that the rest of the meals and snacks they have that day are on the healthy side.

Teach them that food = fuel

One of the best lessons we can teach our kids at a very early age is that food is fuel for their bodies. The better the fuel we put in, the better we will feel and perform. If we can teach our kids that the point of eating isn’t just to fill our empty stomachs with anything that’s edible. The point of eating is to give our bodies the fuel we need to function on a high level. Once kids understand that having an apple with natural peanut butter and water after school will make them feel a lot better than a few cookies and a cup of Kool-Aid, they’ll start to make better choices.

Speak in terms they understand

Simply telling kids that eating certain foods will make them feel better won’t help them embrace eating healthy. We need to equate why feeling better would be important to them. So something like, “Eating this apple and peanut butter as a snack instead of something like a Fruit Roll Up and a cookie, will help you run longer and kick the soccer ball harder than your friends. And you’ll have more energy and stay feeling full longer.” Stuff like that has a lot more meaning to a kid than, “Because I said so.”

If you eat healthy, your kids are more likely to eat healthy, too

Whether we like it or not, our kids are watching us. They emulate what we do. So it’s important that the food we make at home and the food we order out is mostly healthy. I’m a huge fan of the 80/20 rule when it comes to adopting a healthy lifestyle. If we eat healthy 80% of the time, it’s OK to let our guard down the other 20% of the time. The key to a healthy lifestyle is the sustainability. If you’re not following a plan that is sustainable, then you’re basically just on a fad diet. You’ll end up quitting and going right back to where you were.

Need help adopting a healthier lifestyle?

Do you wish that you had better eating habits to pass along to your kids? Do you know how to eat healthy? Have you tried to adopt a healthier lifestyle and failed in the past? I can help. I’ve already helped a lot of my friends and family lose weight and increase their energy with a proven 24-Day program that helps you develop healthy eating habits that leads to a sustainable, healthy lifestyle. I like to say that it takes 21 days to form a habit and 24 days to transform your life. Are you a healthy eater … or not? How has that impacted your children? Tell us about it in the comments below. 

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