Have you ever wondered why some people are healthy eaters and others are not? Research shows that the eating habits we have as adults are typically established when we are children. This is incredibly important information, as it lends a special gravity to how and what we feed our kids.
Although there is plenty of focus on kids’ nutrition (including obesity prevention programs, healthy school lunches, and nutrition education), research consistently reveals that a child’s home environment is, in the end, their biggest food influence.
So where should parents turn for the right answers regarding their children’s eating habits? While that might seem like a complicated question, the good news is that all families – including yours – can develop healthy eating habits that are sure to guarantee good health and a lifetime of happiness.
To prove this point, I’ve compiled 5 healthy habits that your family can start following today. It won’t take long for you to notice drastic changes in your mental and physical health and well-being.
Habit #1: Eat together often.
While it’s all too common for individual members of families to eat separate meals, healthy families eat together as often possible. Need an incentive to gather around the table as a family? A 2011 report published in Pediatrics found that families that shared three or more meals per week were 12% less likely to be overweight, 20% less likely to eat unhealthy foods, and 35% less likely to have disordered eating.
Habit #2: Make mealtime an overall pleasant experience.
Mealtime in the homes of healthy families looks and sounds different. Absent are the patience-testing battles between parent and child. The adults serve meals family style, often with individual members passing plates. Mealtime in a healthy family’s house is a sacred time during which members take turns talking and listening to each other. It is a form of communion in which conversation and a genuine interest in each other are prevalent.
Habit #3: Eat a wide variety of food.
Ever feel like you and your family are stuck in the rut of eating the same old food every day? Well, healthy families meet all their nutritional needs by cooking a wide variety of food. Main meals typically have 3-5 food groups and snacks have 2-3. Processed food is typically replaced by real food options such as fruit, veggies, and whole grains. Sweet treats are usually enjoyed without guilt because they are rarely consumed.
Habit #4: Eat with intention.
Healthy families avoid mindless eating. This means that they avoid random snacking while watching TV or spending time on the computer. They eat with intention. They plan their meals and gather around the table as often as possible. Attention is paid to the messages their bodies send them. When they are full, they stop eating. This prevents the type of overeating seen in unhealthy families.
Habit #5: Avoid diets and negative body talk.
You might think that healthy families live sullen lives of denial and sacrifice. The reality is that healthy families don’t diet, restrict their food intake, or think negatively of their body. Weight is never a focus. Rather, good health, self-care, and a high quality of life are emphasized by parents and children alike. Because they care about the holistic health of their children, parents guide their young people towards a skepticism of the type of idealized body shapes seen in Hollywood and social media.
Which of these habits are you already doing and which ones do you need to work on? Feel free to share your successes and your challenges in the comments section.