There’s no question about it: our kids are watching our every move. We are their first role models, with them observing what we eat, what we do, and how we react to different scenarios and situations from the moment they enter this world.
An interesting study published in 2015 found that there are five key “Stage-of-Change Measures” that parents should take if they want their children to eat healthily and get active. The study, involving children between the ages of four and 10, discovered that the parents who maintained these changes had a greater impact on their child’s behaviour.
The changes are nothing shocking or surprising, though they serve as an important reminder of what we need to try to do consistently as parents to support their health, and our own. These changes are:
- Providing, measuring and increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables parents and children eat daily
- Shutting off screens
- Being active for at least one hour a day
- Limiting access to soda
- Limiting the number of any sugary drinks you and your child has (including juice)
Obesity rates have hit an all-time high in Australia, with over one-quarter (26%) of kids and adolescents considered to be overweight or obese and almost two-thirds (63%) of adults being overweight or obese in 2014-2015. According to that same research, the proportion of individuals who are obese has increased over time.
Ideas for how to get healthy and active as a family
Becoming healthier is something that is best accomplished as a family. Here are some activities you and your kids can start enjoying today:
- Set off to a new destination on your bikes and on hikes
Walking and bike riding are two great cardiovascular exercises that help adults burn off stress and kids use up energy. Head out on a mystery walk or ride (“who knows where we’ll end up?”) or have a specific destination in mind, like going out for frozen yoghurt or to a picnic at the park.
- Get out in the garden
Studies have shown gardening to be excellent for both physical and mental health. Weeding, pruning raking, and planting seeds get your body moving and teaches children the valuable lesson of where a lot of healthy foods come from.
Don’t have a backyard? You can still teach children how to grow their own fresh and nutritious foods by growing foods in containers or by building a vertical garden (and did you know that you can regrow healthy foods from kitchen scraps like lettuce, lemongrass, and potatoes?).
Include your children in the planning process as much as possible. From picking their favourite flowers, fruits, and veggies to landscaping the yard, the more involved they are, the more they will likely be interested and engaged.
- Cook meals together
Decades ago we all learned how to cook by watching and helping our parents and grandparents prepare meals. Unfortunately, this type of activity has become somewhat of a lost art with fewer and fewer young adults knowing how to put together affordable healthy meals.
Start by picking one evening a week to make one of your favourite meals together (extra points if you can use any of the foods you plant in your garden!). Use cookbooks, the internet, and family for dinner ideas, and encourage your kids to try mixing and matching different herbs, spices, and foods to create their own signature recipes.
It’s all about wellness, memories, and love
Getting healthy is a family-wide activity. As a parent, it’s important that you embrace the role as team leader which means planning activities, having nutritious foods readily available, and showing your kids what it means to treat their minds and bodies with love and respect.