Be a model for your kids

Okay, parents, the pressure is on. We all want our kids to eat well and be active, yet sometimes aren’t sure how to get there. Who do kids look to when it comes to modeling habits and behavior? Well, parents of course. It’s hard to expect your kids to jump into a plate of broccoli when you are hitting the drive thru or choose to go out for a bike ride when you’re sacked out on the couch for hours on end.

Healthy eating habits are easier to pass along to kids if you start them young. If you keep junk food out of the house and make sure to stock the fridge with healthy snack options like fruits, vegetables, and yogurt, everyone in the family will only have healthy choices. When kids see their parents making and eating healthy food, they will naturally want to do the same. Healthy parents, healthy kids. Everyone wins.

Claire White, 39, an attorney who works from home in New York State, credits the healthy diet of her daughter Avery, now 4, to offering her a variety of foods starting when she was an infant. “Actually we were lucky because our babysitter was from Brazil and gave Avery lots of vegetables and fruits as her first foods – avocados, mangoes, etc. Now Avery will try anything, and usually likes it,” comments Claire.

Sue Epstein, 50, mother to 2 girls ages 8 and 13 and author of a new book for MS patients, “The Life Program for MS,” keeps food healthy, even when her teenager has friends over, “I make sure I prepare a healthy dinner with lots of fruits and vegetables. Pasta seems to be a universal hit. The other winner is the “drink and ice cubes” I make. Simply a juice spritzer (1/3 juice to 2/3 seltzer water) with colorful ice cubes made from juice. Teens can pile away the sugar and calories from soda pop without even thinking about it, so this treat is not only satisfying but healthy.” Sue adds, ” I have found to ‘just do’ and ‘not ask’ works better when I choose the snacks. Whenever I set out a tray of sliced sweet red peppers, crisp apple wedges, and lite popcorn…never a crumb left!  But if I were to ask :does anyone want some apples?….well you can imagine!”

Being active as a family is a great way for families to bond. Group bike rides, throwing a football in the yard or a family soccer game are all ways for everyone in the family to get some exercise and have fun. When kids see parents choosing to have active lives, they will gravitate toward that lifestyle as well.

Sue feels strongly about keeping her kids active and daily physical activity as a family. Sue says, “Teens live in a ‘high-fat’  and sedentary environment so we parents have to be armed with healthy behaviors.  Exercise for our family comes easier because my husband and I are both active…so I build on our strengths.  I often will bike to do errands and inevitably the girls want to come along.  The middle school age group likes to make money so I have involved them in running errands (using bikes, roller blades, and skate boards) for the neighborhood senior crowd, including dog-walking.”

From the time Avery was a baby, Claire brought her outside for 45 minutes each day – rain, shine or snow. “We make it a point to go outside, regardless of the weather. Avery loves to push her “babies” in her stroller – we bundle up and head outside every day.” The Whites also see active time as family time and leisure time. On the weekends they go swimming at the local Y and even hit the ski slopes. Claire adds, “Being active is a great way for our family to spend time together. Avery sees that as fun.”

Another great idea is to get a tandem bike attachment if your child is not off the training wheels yet or is too slow to keep up with the family bike outing.  you just stick this on the back of your bike and all your kid has to do is sit on the tandem seat, hold on and pedal, but they won’t wobble and fall over.  You are the one controlling the balance. You can find these at

So remember, parents, you are your child’s first teacher – eat well and stay active, and your kids will do the same!

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Rachael Ray