Whether it’s convincing them to eat at least a few bites of the veggies on their plate, or breaking their attention away from one of the many screens that seem to consume so much of their time, for many parents, getting kids to engage in certain healthy habits can pose quite a challenge.
Sometimes this means taking a sly approach. Not necessarily “tricking” your kids into embracing healthier habits, but simply making them seem more appealing so they’ll easily make the choice on their own.
Below, Lisa Nordquist, self-care expert, ACE certified personal trainer, author of “Love Yourself Fit,” and of course, a mom, shares tips that will help you teach your kids to build healthy habits by adding fun, exciting twists to fitness activities and nutritious foods.
1. Make a Fam Plan
“Enlist your kids to help you plan meals, and then shop and cook for the meals,” Nordquist explains. “If they get to pick, they'll be much more inclined to participate and help — and much more interested in eating it all. If they pick less healthy foods, put them online to research alternative, healthier recipes.”
She also suggests using cultures from your kid’s favorite movies as a basis for finding fun new recipes. “Try to create or find a recipe from that culture, like French for Cinderella or Middle Eastern for Aladdin,” she said. “This is a fabulous learning opportunity.”
2. Check Yourself
“You are the role model for your kids. Your kids will observe and imitate your behavior and attitude about bodies, health, food and exercise, either today or when they become adults,” Nordquist said. “Be considerate of this in your actions and speech. Watch what you say to yourself and watch what you say about yourself, your body, food and exercise in front of your kids. If you're calling yourself fat or saying you need to lose weight, you are teaching them how to perceive themselves in the same way.”
3. Snack Stockpile
“If kids are full-on up for the ‘Fam Plan,’ then let them pick out what they will have for snacks all week, too,” Nordquist suggests. “Give them general parameters to work with.” For example, each day must have a fruit and a protein, she explained, and let them write or set out their choices.
“Snacks chosen must be reserved for them, in other words don't use the carrots they chose in soup for dinner, but set them aside so each kid has access to his or her own snacks,” Nordquist explained. “This teaches healthy choices, but empowers each kid to make his or her own choice which creates a feeling of freedom with healthy foods.”
4. Grocery Store Games
Nordquist says this is one of her favorite tips because it’s so much fun.
“Take kids to the store and play age-appropriate games with everything from finding the rainbow colors in each aisle (toddlers) to who can pick the healthiest food (based on labels) in each isle (9+),” she said. “Turn kids loose in the produce department with the assignment of picking out a fruit or veggie in each color of the rainbow. Each choice must be promptly returned to cart to be accepted into the cart rainbow.”
Nordquist said her kids particularly love this game and usually end up wanting to eat the foods they chose.
“This is the easiest way to work in some exercise as well as some interpersonal communication and connection with your kids,” Nordquist said. “Before dinner, three to five nights a week, get everyone together, leash the dog and go for a short walk. Once you're all in step, ask a specific question like ‘What was the funniest thing that happened today?’ or ‘What is the nicest thing you did for someone today?’”
Nordquist says this allows you to connect with your kids while in motion, and with these types of questions you're much more likely to get a full answer compared to if you simply ask ‘How was your day?’
6. Try Two minutes of ‘Grat-2-tude’
“Guide your kids and try this yourself, too,” Nordquist said. “Take two minutes before bed to write or talk about at least two things about your body for which you are grateful, like your heart beat, immune system or pretty eyes. Second, write or talk about two little ways you treated your body better today.” Her examples included: “I listened to my body” or “I took the stairs, not the elevator.”
“Redirecting thoughts about your body to gratitude and acknowledgement will seed that mindset and more thoughtful, healthy behaviors,” Nordquist said.
7. Love Will Move Mountains
“People mistakenly believe holding disdain or loathing will help us change our behavior in regards to our bodies,” Nordquist explained. “But the opposite is true. You take good care of the things you value and love, and you appreciate them more. Your positive feelings toward your body will move and change your body. At the very least, aim for kindness and respect of your body and all that it does for you each day — most of which you are unaware. Teach your child to love their bodies and they will respect and care for themselves. Teach them to hate and judge it, and they will grow up struggling with food, fat and fitness.”
8. Outings with Exercise
“Everyplace you go with your kids is an opportunity to exercise,” Nordquist said. “The beach, the park, the museum, the zoo, horseback riding. Turn your would-be lazy days into movement-packed fun excursions. Play tag at the beach, go for a day hike with a picnic or walk to your local park and do an obstacle course on the equipment. This is a great opportunity for parents to have fun and exercise while creating connections with their kids.”