Whether you are a working parent or a stay-at-home mom or dad, the fast pace of life can be exceedingly stressful with kiddies in tow. Work, school, and life-at-home demands all take a toll, and often, our children will be the involuntary recipients of reactions and behaviors caused by accumulated stress; finding enough time to make and enact healthy choices in a fast-paced lifestyle can be challenging.
Whatever approach one takes to parenting, the final goal is to ensure that what is done is what is in the child’s best interests. Parents are called upon to guide, nurture, and protect offspring, including their physical, mental, and emotional health, throughout the various stages of development; everything a parent does will have a direct and lasting impact on their mental and emotional well-being and physical health – no pressure!
Health-Conscious Parenting: Learning Who We Are
While there is no foolproof method for parenting, conscious parenting is a philosophy that enables mom and dad to be more aware as parents, and mindful in certain situations rather than just reverting to a traditional parenting style, whether that be arguably too authoritarian or permissive.
Conscious parenting is more about the parent’s ability to relate to the child than praising or disciplining them. Parents are encouraged to reflect and control their behavior and feelings, beginning with making healthy choices for themselves; it involves enabling a child’s development through parents managing their own emotions and lifestyle choices rather than fixing their child’s behavior.
It should be simple, right? Proper nutrition, and an hour of physical activity daily should protect our kids’ health right through adulthood. But, today’s world is filled with unhealthy temptations, and the environment that children develop in plays a leading role in acquiring unhealthy behavior and habits.
It’s no secret that we often unconsciously repeat patterns learned from our parents during our childhood; often, there is little-to-no reflection, only an automatic mirroring of what we experienced. Instinctively then, displaying desirable mirroring behaviors relates to choices that directly affect our children’s health, including what we eat.
Parenting Health-Conscious Children
Regardless of a child’s age, teaching them which foods are healthy and which are not should be a priority; in a world filled with fast food and pre-packaged meals, returning to home-cooked meals and buying fresh produce from a farmer’s market or growing your veggies in the backyard can be a challenge – but a worthwhile one. With an onslaught of unhealthy food ads children inevitably view when watching television or surfing the internet, setting up a limit to screen time (as well as what can or cannot be viewed) can also help.
To parent effectively and successfully, you need to involve your children in their food choices, even from a very young age. A parent’s unhealthy relationship with food can be quickly passed on to children, so it’s essential to focus on becoming a role model instead of a disciplinarian; young children especially like to imitate mom and dad.
Balance is key; while the occasional piece of candy or bag of potato chips is okay, it shouldn’t become a habit; complete elimination can lead to children sneaking junk food, so flexibility is a plus. Teaching balance is the best method for getting your kids on track, so make it a point to fill your home with healthy snacks, cook with healthy recipes and eliminate temptations; eliminating junk food at home will reduce temptation all around.
Make nutrition a family affair. Activities that include nutrition awareness, such as planting a home vegetable or herb garden, apple or berry picking, and using vegetables and fruits to make artistic meals, will not only add nutritional value but be a source of family fun, too!
Introduce Scrumptious Veggies
Children usually love some fruit, and that’s often due to its natural sweetness; vegetables, on the other hand, can be an entirely different matter. However, repeated exposure to vegetables and their inclusion in a regular diet can help them to become an acquired taste.
Vegetables can be presented in an appealing form, such as crispy veggie chips or pasta made of vegetables. Baked French fries or baked sweet potato fries are another healthy option. Pureed veggies included in fruit smoothies are another method for integrating vegetables into a child’s diet.
Choose Healthy Carbs
For developing children, carbohydrates are as essential as proteins, fruits, and vegetables. Whole wheat bread, tortillas, and pancakes, together with rice flour, cauliflower crusts or pizza doughs, can be just as tasty and healthy at the same time.
Choose and Prepare Snacks Wisely
Although meals account for most of a child’s nutritional needs and intake, most children will snack at least once during the day. Often, snacks provide low nutritional value, but when selected wisely, they can support overall health and contribute to healthy eating habits.
Rather than processed foods, lean protein options are a much better choice for supporting growth and development and boosting the immune system. They are tasty, too! Examples include:
- Peanut butter on celery
- Cheese paired with fruit
- Whole grains, like air-popped popcorn
- Smoothies made with protein powder for kids
Remove Unhealthy Foods and Habits From the Equation
Cooking with olive oil instead of butter, opting for brown rice, eliminating sugary cereals, and replacing soda pop with water, juices, or low-fat milk can make a significant difference, both nutritionally and in caloric intake. Replace the cookie jar and candy dish with a fruit bowl! Another helpful habit is serving meals on small plates to limit portion sizes, and commit to being a role model for physical activity and healthy eating.
Health-conscious parenting to raise health-conscious children begins at home. A critical area in child development is nutrition, and the right dietary choices will ensure children remain active and productive and aid in preventing mood swings. Preparing healthy meals and snacks may be challenging and time-consuming for parents, but integrating healthy nutrition as a lifestyle choice can support physical and mental development and assist in maintaining a healthy weight.
Children imitate and practice what they watch and what they have been taught. Health-conscious parenting can contribute to a stronger parent-child bond, and teaching children to be proactive regarding their well-being and health is one of the best inheritances a parent can offer.