Encourage Healthy Eating

By encouraging and educating our children about healthy eating, you can instill healthy eating habits for life

January 17, 2013
Encourage Healthy Eating

I allow my kids to eat junk food. Yes, you read that right. Most people I know assume that I forbid my kids to eat sugar or any processed foods. I’m obviously health conscious and passionate about fitness, but I would be lying if I told you that my kids eat perfectly clean all the time and that I never buy junk food. I don't believe in forbidding certain foods or forcing them to eat what I eat all the time. I have never been that kind of parent. As a matter of fact, I love to give my kids treats! The difference is, it’s just that... a "treat”, not a regular habit.

I’m definitely not the drill sergeant that people sometimes assume I would be, however, I do try to lead by example and set limits. I talk to them about serving sizes and explain nutrition labels on different food they eat. Kids are like sponges, and before you know it, they will know what to look for on the label. Surprisingly, once they understand and become aware of basic nutrition facts, they make some really good choices. For example, it won’t take long for a child to figure out that they can have a lot more strawberries than one serving of double stuffed Oreo cookies. (Believe it or not, they like strawberries just as much!) These are things that kids need to learn and it comes from leading by example. If you make sure you have healthy options in the house, talk to them to help make them aware of what they eat and how it affects their health, they will eventually make those choices on their own. After all, we won’t be there telling them what to eat forever.

Another thing I try to do is cook healthy meals at home every day. We hardly ever eat out. Of course, some nights are hectic and I don’t have time to cook healthy meals, so packaged food or takeout comes in handy. However, it’s very rare this is the case and I’m still very selective. It’s not going to hurt them to eat these foods as long as it’s not often, and I think it's important that they know this too.

It’s easy to make sure your kids are eating clean, healthy foods when they’re infants, but the older they get the more unrealistic it is to think they will eat this way all the time. My son is heading to college next year, and I highly doubt he is going to eat clean all the time. Needless to say, you can't keep them in a bubble forever. Eventually, when they start school and begin going to friends' houses, they will be exposed to not so healthy options. But that's OK with me, as it’s a part of life. All you can do is equip them with all the knowledge they need to be able to make good choices when that time comes. Sometimes they will fail and make poor choices, and that’s fine too. It’s all a part of learning.

As fit moms (and dads) we want to make sure they eat right and exercise, but I believe forcing this way of life on them isn’t the answer. Leading by example and talking openly with them about why it's important to make healthy choices, you’ll help plant seeds that will (hopefully) someday sprout, and they will be just as passionate about their health as we are.

I’m not claiming to be an expert on parenting (far from it!), but I wanted to share what I found works best for me and my family. Hopefully my advice takes some of the pressure off you, too. Trying to shield your kids from all junk food all the time for the rest of their life is a difficult task. The good news is, they do learn from watching you. And even when you think they aren’t watching, chances are they are and will surprise you!

Patty Zariello
IFBB Figure Pro
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