Irrespective of whether you are a working parent or a stay at home parent, the regimented demands of parenthood can be quite challenging. From juggling school projects, nightly homework assignments, and after school activities to facing the summer months and planning routines to keep your child(ren) thinking and entertained—work, life, and family balance can be difficult to resolve. But, in the midst of it all, along with your personal and professional obligations, aspirations and commitments, it’s important to always remain focused on what I believe is one of a parent’s top priority—the health and wellbeing of you and your family!
It’s no secret that parents (caregivers) greatly influence the actions of their kids. That’s why it’s more critical than ever for parents (caregivers) to model and encourage healthy lifestyle habits. A parent must understand that if he or she treats eating healthier and exercising as an unpleasant chore, the child won’t see it as much fun either. So, what is a parent to do? Eat healthy. Exercise. And smile while doing so.
It’s important for parents to make fitness a family affair. That means involving your child(ren) in your physical activity, such as walking, swimming, riding bikes, playing dodgeball and/or doing yard work. Try not to emphasize fitness so much that your children feel pressure to keep up with your expectations. Focus on creating a home atmosphere that encourages being physically active. Children who live in a household where the parents are inactive will more than likely not develop an attitude focused on being fit. So, what is a parent to do? Exercise. And smile while doing so.
When exploring mealtime options, it’s important for parents to do their homework to develop a better understanding of healthy vs. unhealthy. In the same way overweight and obese adults are exposed to a long list of health problems (e.g., high cholesterol, high blood pressure, early heart disease, and diabetes) associated with unhealthy eating habits, so are overweight and obese children. And, just as it’s a struggle for adults to stay on the right track with eating healthier, it can also be especially hard for children. So, what is a parent to do? Eat healthy. And smile while doing so.
In this age of escalating health concerns for both adults and children, parents must be more diligent in taking control and limiting unhealthy foods from their family’s diet. Every child should be eating a prudent diet lower in trans and saturated fat, cholesterol, and refined sugar. Drinking sodas, eating hamburgers, fries, pizza, hot wings, candy, cookies, and potato chips can’t be the norm, but rather the exception.
The following tips will help you as a parent (caregiver) to focus on your child’s health:
- Lead by example. If your child(ren) observe you being physically active and enjoying it, then he/she will be more inclined to become involved in doing the same.
- Eat fewer meals at fast-food restaurants and prepare home cooked meals. The goal for the entire family should be to reduce trans fat, saturated fat, and sodium. Start establishing a new normal that consists of a diet higher in fruits, vegetables, grain products, etc. and less from sugar-rich foods, high-fat meats, and dairy products.
- Limit portion sizes. To help reduce the intake of calories, parents should be mindful of what’s on their child’s plate. With the availability of “super-sizing” and “combo meals” at fast-food restaurants, you can get 500 extra calories for a few more pennies. But when you consider the future ramifications, it’s not a bargain.
Simply think, “If not you, then WHO?” Who is going to model and encourage your kid(s) to implement and practice healthier lifestyle habits?