I’m so happy to have my friend Kelly Smith here on this Third Thursday to share some tips on wellness and developing a healthy lifestyle in our children. We know our kids learn by what we do more than what we say, so thanks for the great tips and here’s Kelly!
I remember the year healthy living entered my awareness. My junior year of high school, I found a lost pair of jeans and could not figure out how they shrunk while missing. I also noticed mysterious pink lines on my thighs.
I experienced an adolescent triple threat: I stopped growing, I no longer had to take gym class at school, and with my new independent mobility in the form of a driver’s license, my eating habits now included frequent stops for candy and fast food. My clothes were tighter and those gross marks were–you guessed it–evidence of my stretching skin. Up until that point, I didn’t think much about eating two Oatmeal Cream Pies back-to-back or visiting Taco Bell at 9 pm to scarf down a chili-cheese burrito. Something had to change or I was headed for the “freshman fifteen” before I graduated from high school.
I tried a few strategies: only low-fat or fat-free food (including gobs of candy corn because “it’s fat-free!”), limiting my school lunch to a roll, and a steady diet of Diet Dew and pretzels. I made good choices at seventeen.
I eventually found my healthy happy place. I started walking every day with a friend. I tried to limit junk food and make wise choices when I ate out with friends. I stopped the weight gain. My freshman year of college, I lost the fifteen pounds many students gain. I exercised regularly, walked everywhere, and very rarely ate out (thanks, in part, to my very tight budget).
I don’t want my kids to flounder around when the triple threat hits them in the tushie–literally. Parents can teach kids the habits for a lifetime of healthy living. We will get some eye rolls and protests, but hopefully, our kids will avoid some of my misinformed mistakes.
1. Explain Food Groups
From the time our kids started eating solid foods, my husband explained the importance of proteins, leafy greens, and dairy. We talk about the need to limit carbohydrates and fats. Now that my older kids can make their own lunch, a simple “pick something that grows” is all they need from me to show up at the table with a well-balanced plate.
2. Provide Healthy Choices
I have been accused of having a diabetic’s pantry. I don’t buy a lot of cookies, chips, or sugary drinks. When the only choice for a snack is a piece of fruit or a cheese stick, my kids have to make a healthy choice. Instead of acting as a short order cook, I let them make a salad if they don’t like what I cook for dinner.
3. A Family on the Move
We try to encourage our kids to move by making it a family event. Hiking an easy trail, parent-child tennis doubles, and jogging together are some of our go-to activities. During the summer months, I try to be more intentional about regular exercise since they don’t have school PE to keep them fit.
4. Model Healthy Behavior
The most effective thing we can do to prepare our kids to live a healthy lifestyle is to model a healthy lifestyle. I eat the same things I ask them to eat. They notice when I turn down ice cream after dinner. They cheered for me at the finish line of my first 5k. The kids sit on the sidelines of Daddy’s tennis tournaments. We do what we want them to do.
If you want to see your kids make healthier choices, pick one area to focus on this week. Maybe it’s adding veggies to your plates or taking a family walk after dinner. Make healthy living a family affair. Together, we can build a fit future!
Kelly Smith is a small town girl who married a small town man. They have three energetic blessings. Her favorite indulgences are coffee, reading, writing, and running. Kelly believes we are created for community and loves to find ways to connect with other women who are walking in the shadow of the cross. She blogs at mrsdisciple.com.