Be a Healthy Role Model
By Jackie Baumann, Purdue Extension Educator
I seem to remember a line from a song that says something like “To the world you may be only one person, but to some person you may be the world”. This is true for all of us, but most especially to mothers and fathers of young children. You are probably the most important influence on your child and the decisions they make in many areas of their lives, including their food choices.
With this in mind, I encourage you to be a healthy role model for your children, spouse and others in your life. We really can do many things to help those we care about develop healthy eating and life style habits for life. Offering a variety of foods helps children get the nutrients they need from every food group. They will also be more likely to try new foods and to like more different foods.
When children develop a taste for many types of foods, it’s easier to plan family meals. Make it a point to cook together, eat together, talk together and make mealtime a family time.
Here are a few suggestions for ways to be a healthy role model to your family or others that are close to you:
1. Show by example—eat vegetables, fruits and whole grains with meals or as snacks. Let your children see you choosing raw vegetables for a snack instead of cookies or chips.
2. Go food shopping together—grocery shopping can teach your child about food and nutrition. Discuss the foods you choose and why you want them to choose milk, water and juice to drink more often that sugar filled sodas.
3. Get creative in the kitchen. Make food preparation fun by cutting food into easy but different shapes or inventing or naming a favorite family recipe “Johnny’s salad” or Janie’s Sweet Potatoes”.
4. Offer the same foods for everyone. Don’t try to be a ‘short-order cook’, making different dishes for each person. It’s easier to plan family meals when everyone eats the same foods.
5. Reward with attention, not food. Show your love with hugs and kisses. Comfort with hugs and talks. Choose not to offer sweets as rewards, which can make children think that sweets or dessert foods are better than other foods.
6. Limit screen time and encourage physical activity. Make physical activity fun for the whole family. Involve your children in the planning.
7. Be a good food role model. Try new foods yourself. Offer one new food at a time. Serve something you know your child likes along with the new food. Offer new foods at the beginning of the meal, when your child is hungry. Avoid lecturing or forcing your child to eat.
Studies show that children do pay attention to what you say, even after they become teens and it may seem like they are no longer listening to much of what you have to say. Remember too that they pay even more attention to what they see you do than to what you say. So keep this in mind as you make your daily choices because you ARE a role model to those in your life so try to be a healthy one.