Health has so many definitions. But no matter how you look at it, good food and exercise habits are the foundation for our health, energy, and stamina until death. Motherhood comes with its own set of challenges. One of our primary jobs is to raise healthy kids inside and out. Before you get all crazy with the details, simply realize that this is so much more than forcing broccoli as a side dish. This is about teaching habits that will take a toddler to elementary school, through high school, and into college, and then all the way to businesswoman or man extraordinaire!
As a means of keeping this as simple as possible, let’s take each facet of life and discuss the habits that will be the stepping stones to the next phase.
This is a time when flavors are starting to develop and where the art of cooking and manipulating flavors can be so powerful. Here is where you hide some of the most nutritious items just to create combinations that are tasty enough for the pickiest of eaters, yet bringing in a host of nutrition with each bite. Getting your kids involved in the kitchen is paramount at this stage. I realize it can be a messy endeavor, but the lessons of flavors and tasting will be invaluable. It will make your life easier as they grow and become more boisterous with their thoughts and feelings.
Simple things like marinara sauce, ground beef, smoothies, and even pancakes can hide so much more than you can imagine. Your food processor should be your best friend in the kitchen. Also, here is where you start talking about proteins and get them to know what a protein is. Granted it won’t happen overnight but you can start laying down the groundwork.
Great health also incorporates activity. Playing and running should be the main staple of exercise. Making sure they get their movement in before TV or electronics makes a great habit for years to come. I hate to say it but toddlers are like dogs–they need to run in order to get all of their energy out in a healthy, productive manner. And If you play your cards right, you should be getting in on some of that as well. The bonding is awesome and the calories burned are even better!
Elementary School Age
These tikes have their opinions, but you hold the keys to the kitchen. Your children will not starve, and I say this to you with love. Many kids will demand a different dish and it is up to you to stay strong and create enough variety in the food offerings of a meal. There should be no thought of making something else simply to get them to eat.
If you have already been exposing your children to the kitchen you should have a good eater. If you have not, it is time to get them to make something. The more exposure they have, the more they will be open to tasting and trying new things. It is time to make sure they incorporate a fruit or a vegetable with every meal and snack. They will gravitate towards the processed food choices if you let them, but let that happen at a friend’s house and not at yours. Your home needs to be the forefront of health. In my home we have a “4 taste rule;” foods need to be tasted on 4 different occasions before they can be deemed evil.
As for the fitness side of things, this is a time for sports or outdoor play for hours on end. Everything works better with some activity, your brain, your energy, and your attitude. Encouraging activity before TV and electronics sets the stage for habits when they are older.
Food and Exercise in High School
OK, my friends, this is a time where your kids need to be making breakfast for YOU. By now they should be able to cook eggs and follow a basic recipe. You are training them to function completely on their own and now it’s their time to kick in. They should completely understand food choices and how their energy is impacted by the wrong choices, how the right combination of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates can empower them or drain them. They are old enough to buy their own snacks so this is where the previous years of coaching will show their true colors.
As for fitness, you would hope that they would gravitate to a sport in their elementary years. Keeping them in an organized sport is so much easier at this point than trying to think of what they can do to stay in shape. For those in organized sports, you should be good to go. On the other hand for those who have no plan, this is a great time for you to see about taking a class or activity together. Your about to lose them to college so if you can create bonding time, relish it. If not, simply encourage them to do something with a group of friends.
Movement needs to be a part of their day-to-day. These are the food and exercise habits that will translate to college and beyond. Also, keep in mind that muscle has memory so even if they place their fitness on hold during some of their college years, they will have a fit foundation and it will be so much easier to become fit once it is said and done.
College and Beyond
Your coaching will come full circle at this point. You are sending your young ones off into the world with hopes they make the right choices and that you have instilled the right habits to carry them through. Think of it this way, do you want to send out an overweight, lazy, junk food junky into the world or would you prefer a well-nourished, active adult who can cook great meals and is a snob for good nutrition?
Now we all have our challenging cases. But by focusing on food and exercise with love and persistence, keeping an active lifestyle and making the right food choices can become the day-to-day life of your entire family. It is all in how you present it. You got this!
With Love and Light,