In my opinion, proactive parents, with regards to nutrition and health issues have three main traits in common:
- They’re aware – they get educated about food and activity issues.
- They’re involved – they discuss food and activity issues with their kids, know what their kids are eating and know if they’re exercising or not.
- They’re able to deal – they may feel uncomfortable discussing food, weight and activity, but they do it anyway because they want healthy kids. They also do not engage in denial behavior.
Get pumped to be a proactive parent with the tips below…
Before you can discuss food and activity issues with your kid, you need to know what you’re talking about. Get knowledgeable about the following topics so you can address them appropriately with your child or teen…
- How weight and calories work.
- What is an eating disorder?
- Learn about portion control.
- Learn how to recognize an unhealthy child or teen.
As you start having these conversation, take a close look at overall family habits. Is sitting in front of a screen the only way your family knows how to relax? Do you serve huge portions of food? Do you keep soda and chips stocked all the time? Do you eat fast food because it’s faster than cooking? Your home needs to be a healthy-minded place in order to raise healthy kids.
Remember the following:
You are in charge of groceries. Your child can’t snack on cookies and chips if you purchase healthy snacks. Your child won’t eat fast food if you don’t buy it for her.
You are in charge of activity. If you plan a family hike your child won’t be sitting. If you tell everyone, “It’s time to go play basketball” or “Take a walk” that’s what should happen.
You are the parent! This means YOU are in charge. Do not compromise healthy habits because your kid doesn’t like the idea of healthy habits – you’re the parent so make healthy choices and then make sure the family sticks to them.
Be a good role model: If you’re going to start discussing food and activity, make sure your own choices are healthy so your child can see these healthy rules in action.
Let your child make choices: Allow older kids and teens choices, within reason. For example, before going to the grocers, ask your child for food requests, but tell him that the choices need to be healthy and nutritious for the most part. Allow your child one “junk food” choice BUT only one and only buy said junk food in a limited amount once per week. Once it’s gone for the week, it’s gone.
Create activity rules: Have your child make a list of active activities she likes, then make sure she’s doing some of them. You may want to insist on one sport team per semester at school or take a yoga class together. If your child can’t choose an activity on her own, remember that as the parent, you can decide for her. It’s not appropriate or healthy if you allow your child to be inactive all the time. Plus, sometimes kids don’t know what they’ll like. You may enroll your kid in soccer and they may not be thrilled at first, but might grow to love it.
Eat at home most of the time: Meals out are way heavier on calories than meals at home. Portions at restaurants are huge and inappropriate for kids and teens. For example, whenever my friend takes her son to dinner at Red Robin, the teen orders off the adult menu getting a burger, fries and float, plus ranch dip for the fries. This is a 2,452 calorie meal. WAY too many calories for one meal considering most teens only need about 1,600 to 2,500 calories per day. The average kids meal at a fast food joint is more than 800 calories. On the flip side, you can make a decent 400-500 calorie meal at home.
Don’t fall into the “relax” trap: Some parents know how frazzled the school system can make kids, so they rationalize that on weekends, after school and during the summer, their child, “Deserves to relax,” allowing unlimited time in front of the T.V and computer, just sitting. Don’t do this. School is stressful for kids, but rewarding one bad thing with another does not make a right. Just because your child or teen is stressed in school doesn’t mean they get to sit 100% of the time when not in school. If school is really that stressful, make a change.
Address school lunches: I know many kids who skip lunch because they hate the school food. I know others who eat pizza dipped in ranch each and every day. Find out what your child’s lunch habits look like and if they aren’t healthy, send a packed lunch to school instead.
Address the small things: I’ve met kids who play Wii Sports sitting down or eat 9 helpings of tarter sauce (1,424 calories). These are insane issues that while small, do need to be addressed. Making your child stand up to play Wii Sports is totally reasonable as is limiting toppings. Becoming good at making small healthy changes may help you get better at instituting bigger changes.
Don’t wimp out
If your child needs to start working on newer, healthier habits, make sure it happens. These are very tough issues, but being too scared to deal with them or avoiding the issues because you feel they’re too hard to address, aren’t acceptable options if you’re the parent. You want your child to be healthy. You do not want a child with diabetes, heart disease and other health issues that come along with being overweight, poor nutrition or a lack of activity.
Start creating new healthy family rules and really stick to them, such as…
- Buy healthy groceries and cook at home.
- Institute family walks and activity times and make them mandatory – no exceptions. It won’t kill your child to make him take a family walk. He may whine or complain at first, but again, this is your child’s health we’re talking about.
- Quit buying soda.
- Quit eating fast food.
- Limit screen time.
- Serve proper food portions.
When you waver back and fourth on healthy family rules, you only confuse your kid and make going healthy that much harder.