We are all role models to our children. And that influences whether or not we help create good eating habits in our child.
In this article you will learn:
- the importance of being a role model for your child
- 9 ways you can embrace your leadership and cultivate good eating habits in your child
Parents are Eating Role Models
You, especially, are under the watchful eye of your child. How you behave, what you choose, your bad or good eating habits— influence your child each day.
How you manage your body—what you eat, when and how much you eat, your activity level or lack thereof, are noticed by your child. These can set the foundation for a future of healthy eating and an active lifestyle, or not.
In essence, you are a nutrition role model of good eating habits, whether you like it or not.
You Habits Become Your Child’s Habits
You have the unique responsibility of being the primary role model for your child when it comes to food and eating behaviors.
By the time your child is twelve years old, he will model many of your parental behaviors in this area.
So, if you are a meal skipper, chances are your child may be too.
If you diet off and on, so may your child grow up and do the same.
Refuse certain foods or eliminate them from your diet? Your child may adopt these practices also.
If you spend a lot of time watching television, don’t be surprised if your child comes home and plops in front of the TV, Nintendo DS, or laptop.
9 Ways to Create Good Eating Habits
It can be overwhelming to realize your child is looking at your eating habits every day! Here are 9 ways to optimize good eating habits.
1. Use a Trust Foundation
Trust your child to honor their hunger and fullness and eat the right amounts for their body.
This really boils down to trusting your child’s inner intuition about eating. You can learn from your child’s natural self-regulation.
This foundation of trust will serve you and your child through the ups and downs of growth, body development, and eating in the future.
2. Be Predictable
Predictability is the key to a happy child. Set up a framework for meals and snacks. Time them at regular intervals to avoid too much hunger.
Structure your meals to have most of the food groups represented, most of the time.
Offering fruit at every meal is a great way to ensure good eating habits and build predictability in mealtimes. Predictability builds security—food security.
A child who is secure with food and eating tends to have fewer problems with weight and eating later in life.
3. Choose Food for Health
Focus on foods that are rich in nutrients, fiber, and taste. Choose more whole, natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains.
If the drive through is a common stop on your way home, envision another way to bring convenience and efficiency to your eating—try a crock-pot, a pressure cooker, or homemade frozen entrees instead.
4. Expose to New Foods
Introduce your child to a variety of foods.
Ensure that new foods accompany familiar foods.
Try ethnic varieties, exotic fruits, seasonal vegetables, and flavorful condiments.
Try different forms of familiar foods—instead of French fries, try roasted potatoes. Instead of applesauce, try baked apples.
Don’t rule out a food because you think your child won’t like it—and don’t paint a grim face if you do offer it—stay neutral and trust your child to let you know their impression.
5. Have an Adventure
Creating fun and adventure with eating is fun for kids. Show your sense of eating adventure by having a “new menu item” night during the week.
An openness to “try anything” also shows adventure in eating—let your child see the adventurous eater in you and it will help build good eating habits!
6. Move Everyday
Our bodies are meant to move daily.
If you want your child to be active, you need to be active too. Show your enjoyment and enthusiasm for exercise!
7. Share Your Food
This is a safe way for your young child to try new food items and a way to build trust and security with food and eating.
Sharing food sends the very basic and important message of generosity.
8. Communicate Early and Often
Talk about food, eating, nutrients, health, and physical activity. Promoting open and honest communication about nutrition will set a foundation of trust, health education, and realism in the world of food and eating.
Remember, children are curious and will ask the questions—let them know early on that you are their resource for reliable information.
9. Manners are Important
Beginning early with the basic “please and thank you” and advancing to more complex manners will help your child know how to operate in the world.
Make sure you “please” and “thank” your child early on and you will be pleasantly surprised when you hear it stated, unsolicited from their mouths.
Practice common table manners. It pays off before you know it.
Be a Role Model and Raise a Healthy Eater
Building good eating habits through role modeling is not a choice for a parent. It comes with the territory.
Choosing to showcase your good eating habits will reap lifetime rewards in your child’s food choices, eating behaviors, exercise patterns, and overall health.
Remember, your child is watching your every move.
Your moves don’t have to be perfect—just thoughtful and intended toward a healthful and active child.
Who was your best nutrition role model?