As a child of the 80s, I was in the minority when it came to the way I ate. Most of my friends felt sorry for me when it came time for school lunch and I pulled out natural peanut butter and apples or homemade granola and a banana – and at the time, I felt pretty sorry for myself too. While I spent years coveting their salty snack chips and bologna sandwiches on white, by the time I got to college, I understood why my parents pushed healthy foods on my sister and me. We never went without goodies and treats by any means, but they created healthy habits in us when it came to our overall eating routines – and when it came time for us to venture out on our own, it was second nature to us to choose nutritious snacks and meals over less healthy alternatives.
Now that I’m a parent myself, it is incredibly important to me to instill the same health-conscious habits in my kids that were taught to me as a child. As a family, we make a conscious effort to invest in healthy lifestyle choices in general. My husband is a runner and I practice daily yoga, and we involve our kids in these activities as well. We also try to participate in as many activities as we can outside – from working together in our garden, to going for walks, to having outdoor picnics, to spending time at our favorite places of play. And, just as my parents did for me, we place a lot of emphasis on creating healthy habits in them as they grow up when it comes to food.
One of the biggest ways we work to instill these habits is by setting good a example ourselves with meal and snack choices. We cook a lot of meals as home that use whole, nutritious ingredients, and we involve them in the preparation (well, Essley anyway; at 7.5 months, Emmett is a little too young to grasp the concept of cooking) and grocery shopping. When we want a snack, we grab healthy ones like nuts, fruits and veggie, and CLIF Bars. And when we’re thirsty, we always fill up our water bottles (and Essley has one of her own too) rather than going for a soda or sugary juice. Kids soak up everything they see – by allowing them to watch us choose foods that are good for our bodies, they want to do the same.
Another way we make an effort to form healthy food habits with our little ones is to provide them with nutritious snacks when they’re hungry outside of meals. It is so easy to hand kids sugary treats or overly processed snacks when we’re in a hurry, but providing them with better-for-you options on a consistent basis gets them used to a pattern of choosing good snacks over unhealthy ones. When Essley says she’s hungry between meals, I like to cut up an organic apple or banana with some almond butter, or give her a CLIF Kid Zbar (which are also perfect for stashing in my diaper bag on the go). She loves them because they taste so good; I love them because they’re made with organic ingredients, are non-GMO, contain important nutrients for active kids, and have no high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, or synthetic preservatives. These are the kind of snacks I want her (and eventually, her little brother) to get used to eating so that they’re opting for similar healthy snack choices once they’re old enough to make eating decisions for themselves.
One other way we work to instill healthy nutrition habits in our kids may not seemingly have anything directly to do with food – and that’s spending lots of time playing outside. This can mean something that actually does involves food, like eating meals outdoors or having picnics (our favorite), but it can also mean just being a part of an overall healthy routine that involves outdoor activity. (And let’s face it – playing outside really does lead back to nutrition anyway. A kid who spends an afternoon running around in the grass and dirt is going to be much more apt to eat a full, healthy dinner, right?) Another thing we love about CLIF Kid is their dedication to reclaiming play. Our childhood memories involve lots of outdoor adventures with friends, and we want the same for our kids. Did you know 70% of moms played outside when they were kids, but only 31% of their kids play outside today? How sad is that? CLIF Kid is encouraging boys and girls everywhere to get back outside (you guys have to check out their Come Out to Play video, which so perfectly illustrates this), and to participate in balanced, active play – which we fully agree lays the foundation for a skilled, healthy, resilient and successful society. Spending time outside is a huge part of our goal to instill healthy habits in our kids.
For those of you with kids of your owns or important kids in your life, how do you work to teach healthy nutrition habits? How do you encourage them to play outside? I’d love to hear what works for all of you!
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