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How to be a healthy role model

Jessica Padykula is a freelance writer and editor in Toronto, Canada covering a wide range of  topics for several online lifestyle publications. She is a regular contributor for SheKnows, covering travel, style, relationships, health and...

Setting a healthy example

Having kids means having to watch what you do and say like never before. Those little eyes and ears soak up everything – even when you think they’re not watching. So when it comes to health you have to be even more careful about how your own habits influence and shape your children's ideas about food, fitness, overall health and body image. We’ve come up with some tips to help you better navigate the task of being a healthy role model for your kids.

Family playing ball outside

1Don't self-criticize

Every time you look in the mirror and complain about the size of your thighs or scold yourself for taking more than one helping, your kids can likely hear you. We all have moments where we wish we were taller, thinner or looked a little more like the women we see on the pages of magazines, but that's not the mindset we should be instilling in our children. If your kids see that you appreciate your body, rather than feel bad about how it looks, they're more likely to develop a healthy body image of their own.

2Limit your own screen time

If your kids spend more time in front of TV and computer screens than you'd like, before you scold them think about how much time you spend hunched over your laptop or furiously typing on your BlackBerry. If you want them to limit screen time, it's a good idea for you to do the same. The more time you or your kids are spending in front of a screen, the less time any of you are being active. Designate an hour each night (more on weekends) as a no-screen zone and make sure everyone is doing something that doesn't involve video games, social networks or watching TV. Walk the dog, head to the park or just spend some time getting fresh air in the back yard.

3Make healthy eating fun

Healthy eating shouldn't have to be a chore or feel like a time-consuming task. Every time you opt for a fast-food meal instead of something wholesome, you're sending a message to your kids that eating is more about convenience and instant gratification than about making choices that will be beneficial to your health. Try these simple ways to start making healthy eating more fun:

  • Eat as a family. If your kids see you sitting down to a meal rather than just grabbing grub on the go they'll be more likely to do the same.
  • Try introducing one new healthy food each week. It could be anything from a grain such as quinoa to a vegetable that no one has tried. Involve the kids in choosing a recipe to highlight the newest addition to your dinner table.
  • Take cooking from solo chore to fun family activity. Give each of your kids age-appropriate jobs, put on some music and spend some quality time making a healthy meal together.

4Build in time to exercise

There's no point extolling the virtues of physical fitness to your offspring if the only exercise they ever see you get is racing towards your BlackBerry every time you hear it buzz. If you want them to grow up enjoying activity, then we suggest you dust off your running shoes and show them how much fun being fit can be. You don't have to drag them to step class or force them to run laps with you at the local track (um ... boring), but you can make sure they're aware of the fact you are going to that step class or running those laps. Better yet, make fitness a family activity. Get out on your bikes for an after-dinner ride, look into hiking a nearby trail or taking a day trip to go for a nature walk or head to the park with a ball you can toss around – anything to get active together and show your little ones that exercise is easy to fit into everyday life.

5Practice what you preach

Telling your kids to do something – then doing the exact opposite – isn't a good way to get them to lead a healthy lifestyle. We know it's not easy to fit in regular exercise and commit to healthy eating regularly, but it's worth the effort and you don't have to become super-strict with yourself – just make sure you're not stuffing a frozen pizza down your throat while telling your kids to eat more vegetables. Likewise, don't yell at them for watching too much TV – while you're sitting on the couch watching TV. 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.

More healthy-living tips

4 Reasons to exercise outdoors
5 Tips for making your health a priority
Jumpstart a healthy lifestyle

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