Become a Healthy Role Model

Can you identify your child’s main role model? Hint: Look in the mirror. It’s you! Children naturally mimic their parents -- that includes their attitude toward exercise and eating right. If you want your child to have a healthy lifestyle, you can’t just talk the talk. You need to walk the walk.

Use that role model power to help improve your family’s health with these tips.

Make your home a healthy eating zone:

  • Plan healthy meals with your kids ahead of time so fast food isn’t tempting. If they can help prepare, that’s even better. In fact, it becomes a fun family activity.
  • Go grocery shopping together to introduce healthy choices. Replace butter with olive oil, and discuss your reason for this choice.
  • Keep healthy snacks where they are easy to see.
  • Eat together at the dinner table. Keep a set mealtime whenever possible and try to set up at least 4 family meals each week. Plan ahead and cook meals that can be frozen and reheated.
  • Encourage your kids to eat breakfast every day. Good choices are oatmeal or whole-grain cereal, fruits and low-fat milk.

Get your family moving:

Family BikingNote: Children ages 6 -17 should get at least an hour of physical activity every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; adults require about half of that.

  • Encourage children to be active. Help them figure out what physical activities they like and can do often.
  • Start early in life. Kids are more likely to be active later in life if they start when they are young.
  • Plan activities the whole family can do together. Visit Let’s Move! to get ideas.
  • Explore the great outdoors together – simply walking or biking to school could work!

Limit screen time:

  • Setting rules can help cut screen time down to 1-2 hours per day – that includes TV, video games and the computer.
  • Know the link between screen time and unhealthy foods. Studies show kids who have more screen time are more likely to eat food higher in fat and added sugar.
  • Teach your kids that many of the ads on TV are for less-healthy food and drink choices. (There’s a junk food ad every 5 minutes during Saturday morning cartoons!)

Practice what you preach

Practice what you preach:

  • Eat healthy! Your children are watching. They will follow your lead.
  • Get off the couch and move. If your kids see you exercising, they want to move more, too.
  • Set an example by limiting your own screen time

By practicing what you preach, you're showing your kids you believe in what you're saying -- and that what goes for them goes for you as well. Remember to not give up. Change is tough, but studies show that it’s easier to establish good eating habits and maintain a healthy weight later in life if you start during childhood.


 Do you have any other ways to encourage healthy living with your kids? Tell us in the comments!

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; Krames Staywell; United States Department of Agriculture; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; Let’s Move