Recently a friend asked me, “How do you feed your kids healthy meals everyday?” She told me how hard it was trying to change her habits and theirs. I told her it’s all about taking small steps and role modeling healthy living for your kids.
With the kids home for summer vacation, it’s a great time to role model a healthy lifestyle for your kids – and change some of your unhealthy habits, too. Thanks to those long summer days, you can do this whether you’re a stay (or work) at home parent or you work outside the home and the kids are in camp or daycare all day.
Plan healthy meals and snacks. Take the family for a walk after dinner. Go to the city pool, the beach or the lake to swim and be active. Make a healthy picnic to share with the kids after work in a local park or at the beach.
Here are some other suggestions on role modeling healthy choices for your kids!
Role modeling in the kitchen
- Keep healthy stuff in the house and no junk like chips, candy, cookies, and soda. If you aren’t eating it, neither are your kids.
- Keep the refrigerator and pantry stocked with healthy treats – frozen fruit pops, dried and fresh fruit, healthy breakfast cookies, non-fat Greek yogurt, and so on. My mom always kept Dannon yogurt in the fridge when I was growing up, along with fresh fruit like grapes, bananas and apples. Plus, what child doesn’t love Cuties oranges and kiwis, both of which are fun to eat?
- Don’t keep juice in the house! Eat your juice (fruit) don’t drink it.
- Serve skim milk. On our pediatrician’s recommendation, I limit my children to one glass of milk per meal. They can have water afterwards. It’s all about moderation, even with healthy foods like milk.
- Make eating healthy easier by cooking up big batches of healthy stuff – chili, soup, roast chicken, whole wheat spaghetti and homemade sauce, etc. That way you can heat up leftovers on those busy nights instead of ordering take out. This was how my mom cooked and my dad loved having the leftovers the next day for lunch.
- Start slowly. Buy whole grain bread instead of white bread, then graduate to organic whole grain bread. Start using whole wheat pasta instead of semolina pasta. Use corn or whole wheat tortillas instead of flour ones.
- Make it fun! Having the kids dip cucumber, cherry tomatoes and carrots in a lite ranch dressing is a good start to getting them to eat salad.
- Take advantage of summer – corn on the cob, fresh fruit and berries, and farmer’s markets! Fire up the grill and cook up fish, shrimp and lean meats. One of my favorite memories growing up was all the seafood my mom cooked up during the summer at home and at the beach like steamers, lobster and crab.
- Stock the pantry with healthy convenience foods like the light Progresso soups (my kids eat the chicken noodle for breakfast!), V8 juice (the one juice that I don’t mind the kids guzzling), Amy’s frozen foods and soups, and Healthy Choice Naturals. Many of these can be taken to work instead of getting fast food.
- Other easy to cook up foods include eggs and lean deli meats, both which you can use in chef salads and sandwiches.
- Try a healthy, low saturated fat buttery spread instead of real butter. I LOVE I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and so do the kids. They like saying, “I can’t believe it’s not butter, mom!” almost as much as they like eating it.
- Find a healthy pancake mix. Fiber One is good as are the ones by Bob’s Red Mill. Get lite syrup or try agave syrup. Use a fruit spread on the pancakes. Get a good start in the morning for those busy summer days!
Role modeling an active lifestyle
- Plant a garden with the kids or visit a pick your own farm. Both are great forms of exercise! Look into signing up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) share in your area. Participating in a CSA share or having a garden forces you to cook up a lot of healthy produce.
- Celebrate the release of Kung Fu Panda 2 by going to an Asian market with the kids just to look at all the funky produce and the chicken feet! (Can you say field trip?) Get some bok choy, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, etc. and make stir fry after a trip to the movie theater. Have the kids suggest veggies they’d like to add to it. Don’t forget to make a big batch of brown rice to go with it.
- Find ways to walk or bike instead of driving. Can you walk to the library or store? Are there bike trails nearby? During summer vacation, take the time to do an outdoor physical activity with your family once a week.
- Moms and dads need to make exercise a priority, whether that means getting up early to work out or coming home a bit late a few nights. If the kids see you taking care of yourself, they’ll learn good habits. My mom always played tennis when I was growing up - and still does even though she’s in her late 70s. To this day she inspires me to keep active.
- Don’t forget your vitamins! Kids and adults should take a multi-vitamin every day.
Role modeling at got milk?
As my kids grow older, I realize how my mom continues to shape me as a mother. It’s all about the time we spent together as I grew up and the memories she made for me and my sister from the trips we took to the fun activities we did like berry picking, cooking, and painting.
Now moms can have fun with their kids online. For example, the Milk Mustache got milk? Campaign’s new interactive section on their Facebook page. First, “like” the Milk Mustache Facebook page then go to their Role Modeling page. Click on “get started” to send an e-postcard to someone you love. (Send dad or your favorite uncle the Angie Harmon e-postcard. I’m sure they won’t mind.)
Moms can spend some time reading the Like Mother Like Daughter – A revealing look at the crucial link between mothers, daughters, food and health report. Or click on the “pour one more” for all kinds of healthy recipes that use milk like fruit smoothies and veggie soups.
Have a wonderful summer role modeling a healthy lifestyle for your kids.
Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of the National Milk Mustache got milk? Campaign and was compensated for my time.