Janet Helm
September 19, 2011

The changes you’re making with our 12 Healthy Habits program are not just good for you – they’re good for your family.  Parents are powerful role models, and the new healthier habits you’re adopting are helping to instill these habits in your kids. But there are a few things you can learn from your kids, too.

Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, a registered dietitian and nutrition blogger at Raise Healthy Eaters, is blogging about the 12HH and she offers this advice to help us tap into our inner child.  Here are 5 healthy habits that children can teach us -- if we let them:

1. Live an active life: Increasing our daily physical activity is so important. We need to do less sitting -- and be more active naturally.

How many times do you hear parents telling their children to sit down and sit still.  My two children, 2 and 4, skip, run and move everywhere we go.  Moving their bodies is a fun activity that is as natural as breathing.

Kid tip! Get up from your desk and walk around, take short walks at break time and keep moving throughout the day.  And if you can giggle while you're doing it, that's even better.

2. Listen to your tummy: I constantly hear parents insisting their young children take a few more bites of food.  In fact, 85% of parents say that they try to get their child to eat more at mealtime, according to a 2007 study published in Appetite.

No, no, no!  Kids are natural regulators of food intake.  They eat when hungry and stop when full with eating habits that seem erratic to us adults.  We need to protect this inborn ability in kids -- and, instead, ask ourselves if we are still hungry or have had enough.

Kid Tip! Feed yourself several times throughout the day (3 meals and 2 snacks) and listen to your tummy.  It'll let you know if you are done or even want to eat in the first place.

3. Enjoy every bite:  Ever watch a young child eat something that they love?  There's not an ounce of guilt -- just pure enjoyment. 

There's quite a bit of research that shows that guilt associated with eating -- thinking of food as good or bad -- causes people to eat more.

Kid Tip! Whatever you are eating, enjoy each bite and notice when you are satisfied.  Sitting at the kitchen table helps you focus on the food and eat more mindfully.

4. Fun takes precedence over food. Go to a party with kids present and your are bound to find parents chasing little ones around with a plate of food. 

I love that kids are too excited by festive surroundings to eat.  Adults can do the same thing by creating an exciting life. 

Kid Tip! Got a lifelong dream?  Start a project, take a class or simply pursue a forgotten passion and let food take second stage.

5. Become a picky eater: The other day my 4 year old, who loves sweets as much as the next kid, brought me a cupcake after taking one bite.  She said it wasn't that good.

While picky eating isn't always fun for parents, it's beneficial when kids are choosy about the not-so-healthy foods -- especially sweets.  

Kid Tip!  When it comes to foods without much nutritional value, be ultra picky.  Fit in (and enjoy) your absolute favorites and leave out the rest.

No doubt, kids have a lot to learn about healthy eating. But we forget that some of the most basic healthy habits are innate -- and little ones are great reminders of that.

So tell me, what healthy habits have you learned from your kids?


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