One Sentence Summary
The best way to ensure your kids are healthy is to simply model it every day as part of normal life, not a specific event.
We try not to make a big deal about diet and exercise in our house. Healthy eating (to the maximum extent possible by picky eating) and exercise is the normal environment. As long as Em and I are modeling healthy behaviors, the children naturally follow. When they inevitably rebel, we hope they do not swing too far in the unhealthy direction because we have not been dictatorial in our family eating and exercise.
Maintaining health and instilling healthy habits in our children is important to us since it affects every other aspect of our lives. There are thousands, probably millions, of resources that can teach how to eat right, exercise, meditate, or whatever. Iím not going to tell you any of those things, because Google exists.
We don’t keep much junk food in the house, and we never keep soda in the house. There are a few options that we eat for typical breakfasts and lunches, and then eat dinner together (unless it’s Adult Dinner). The kids know what foods are allowed for a snack and that they need to have fruit and/or vegetables at a meal.
The habits become ingrained and will stick until they are old enough to decide on their own how they want to take care of themselves. The ultimate goal is that by then they realize that a good diet leads to a more comfortable life.
“Wait a second” you exclaim. You’re making símores for breakfast in the picture! How can that be healthy?
I didn’t say we never eat junk food, just that it’s not an everyday thing. We keep the Halloween candy year to year. Em has been known to (don’t tell the children) take candy from their treat bags that has been left over from Christmas to put into their Easter baskets – because itís still there from Christmas.
Part of keeping the diet even-keeled is having treats from time to time. I don’t want the kids to have a bunch of pent-up junk food cravings because we have restricted it so much at home. I think if it is too restricted at home, they can go a bit crazy once they leave the house. Realistically, that will be very personality-dependent and I won’t know if I got it right until they are grown – like much of parenting.
Smores for Breakfast
And when you tell kids there will be s’mores, there had better be s’mores. No matter the weather the night before or how late you got to the campsite. Hence, s’mores at breakfast.
I enjoy exercising. I typically go running or lift at home these days for efficiency. Em also exercises at home. The kids have always seen us be active on a regular basis and so, it is the norm for them. When I come home from a long run in the winter with a beard full of ice, they think itís cool. Most people probably think I’m weird.
Your dad didn’t wear tights and run in the freezing cold? Weird.
Since they are used to seeing us exercise, they often want to join us. We have dumbbells starting at 1lb so they can join in anytime. Iíve started taking the oldest one with me on some runs while he rides his bike.
The exercise is not a special event or a series of months where we get in shape we just try to make it the norm. We have cycles of more intense exercise or rigorous training, but there is always a base level of activity. They aren’t pressured to do anything in particular, but we do encourage them to play at least one sport. We also limit their screen time and get them outside as much as possible. Kids and adults both naturally want to be active. Modern life sometimes grinds that out of adults, though, and it takes a concerted effort to get back to a more natural active life.
But I’m Tired
Yes. Raising kids is exhausting. Eating healthy can be more work in that immediate moment. Exercising can feel like just another item on the to-do list. Everything is hard. But, compared to eating junk, not exercising and allowing your incredible gift of a body to decay – it is easy.
If you find yourself in the situation where your diet is out of whack, and you are not moving as much as you should be, what should you do?
The same as always, the same as anything. Set a goal, make a plan, and make it happen.