Lunchroom Learnings: Setting a Healthy Example for Your Kids
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As a parent, do you ever wonder what happens to the sack lunch you send with your child to school—whether it gets eaten, or perhaps traded, or worse yet, tossed in the trash? Or if your kids eat school lunch, you may wonder what exactly are they eating from their lunch tray and is it nutritious? Either way, we have some control knowing that the foods we pack or the foods provided by the school lunch program are nutritious, but we don’t have control over what our kids decide to eat. That’s where one of our most important jobs as parents comes into play—being a good role model.
The phrase “actions speak louder than words” couldn’t be more true as it applies to eating and exercise. I have learned from experience with my own kids that they tend to pay more attention to what we do rather than what we say, so I always try to back up my words with positive actions. If we want our kids to make smart food decisions, the most important thing we can do is set good examples in our own food choices. This may mean drinking milk instead of soda with meals, eating fruit as a snack, and enjoying a sensible portion of dessert.
Two important qualities of healthy eating that I try to model are balance and moderation. This means showing my kids how to balance their choices so they can enjoy all foods, and learning how to enjoy reasonable amounts of foods. This especially applies to sugary foods since most kids, including mine, love their sweets. So if my daughter really wants a piece of candy or sweet snack after school, she has learned that she can enjoy a small portion along with a piece of fruit or cup of yogurt.
So even though I don’t have control in the lunchroom, I feel confident that my children have the skills to make smart food choices. I’m also realistic, however, in knowing that it often takes time and maturity to consistently put these into practice. If we plant the seeds of healthy eating and physical activity when our kids are young, we will be more likely to see our good examples flourish into healthy habits as our kids get older. TIP: “Kids see, kids do.” Remember that you are one of your kids’ most influential role models. Don’t just tell your kids, show them how to eat healthy and be fit.
Betsy Hornick, MS, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian, nutrition communications consultant, instructor at Rock Valley College and member of the CRA RD Panel, She writes regularly for consumer and professional audiences and also has experience in technical editing, nutrient analysis, project management, and nutrition labeling regulations. Betsy writes a bi-monthly column for Diabetic Cooking magazine, was co-author of The Healthy Beef Cookbook, and author of the 101 Best Food series.
Members of the RD Panel are paid consultants to the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), but their statements and opinions are their own. RD Panel members provide general dietary information, but you should consult your own physician or dietitian for advice concerning your particular circumstance