we all go into parenthood with certain preconceived notions about how we will parent our children - limit tv, outdoor play instead of video games, treats on special occasions only. then life happens + we inevitably bend those rules to more realistically fit our busy schedules. sometimes a little too much. we know how daunting it can be to rewire your kids when it comes to food + daily habits, but the good news is, you can take it one small tweak at a time. the children are our future, after all. we owe it to them to make sure they have the best start possible! here are 5 simple tweaks you can use to teach your kids lifelong healthy habits.
1 [cook your own food]
pay attention, because this one’s really important. there’s a reason for that old adage “give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.” not only does basic knowledge of cooking save you time + money, it ensures you’ll enjoy a much healthier diet than those who regularly turn to fast-food and take-out. if you teach your kids to participate in + enjoy cooking their own food from a young age, you’re giving them a gift that will serve them well throughout their lives. wanna ease your kids in to helping out in the kitchen? let them start by making their own lunches. give them a few simple guidelines to abide by (make sure there’s a fruit + a veggie, no candy, etc), then stand back + let them own the task. when they’re ready to take on more responsibility in the kitchen, let them make dinner once per week. give them a budget, let them make the grocery list, help them pick out the ingredients at the store, then let them prep the meal on their own - with supervision for things like chopping + working at the stove. by the time they’re adults fending for themselves, cooking nutritious food will be second nature. want more? consult our guide for getting your kids to help in the kitchen for tips on age-appropriate tasks (and a recipe).
2 [have an attitude of gratitude]
just like adults, grateful kids are not only happier + less stressed, but they do better in school + develop stronger relationships. in fact, research shows that “a gratitude journal is a wonderful and scientifically proven way to guide your child toward health, happiness + internal motivation.” bonus: better grades! studies find that children who feel grateful are more likely to perform well academically and less likely to be susceptible to stress + depression. incorporating gratitude into their daily routine can be as simple as asking them about the best part of their day at dinner, or as in-depth as committing to a gratitude journal where you have them jot down 3 things they’re grateful for before bed each night. either way, they’ll drift off to dream land on a positive note. (p.s. gratitude helps you sleep better too!)
3 [move more]
fewer than 25% of american children get the recommended 60 minutes of daily exercise, and about one-third of american children ages 10-17 are overweight or obese, so setting our kids up with consistent exercise habits from an early age has never been more important. physical activity helps develop their brains further, it lessens depression + anxiety, it tends to improve their behavior, and it makes them less likely to become overweight or obese in the future. one way we’ve found to get otherwise disinterested kids excited about exercise: gift them with a fitbook junior, with which they can attach rewards to their physical activity, nutrition + academic goals. you can also make exercise a family priority on the weekends - take a hike together, play a couple games of basketball, go for a swim. when it’s not a chore, but rather an enjoyable activity associated with positive memories, they’ll have a much better relationship with the concept throughout their lives. got a tiny tot running around? you can similarly use a goal chart on the fridge with those under age 5 to teach them the same healthy habits!
4 [manage money wisely]
teaching this skill early on is crucial. settle on an amount your children can earn each week via allowance. one way we think is genius to impart smart spending habits from the very beginning: the three-jars method. have your child decorate three jars - one for spending, one for saving + one for donating - then make sure he splits his weekly allowance money evenly between each jar. when the savings jar gets full, start a savings account in your child’s name. when the donate jar reaches capacity, work together to choose a charitable organization to hand it over to. the only rule for the spend jar? give your child the latitude to choose how he’ll spend it. he’ll start to learn how it feels to allocate his earnings toward different areas, how it feels to save, how it feels to give - all invaluable lessons to learn as early as possible.
5 [sip up]
choose one tweak or employ ‘em all for a major healthy overhaul. either way, they’re small enough to stick relatively quickly. which one will you try first? know of a terrific tweak we missed? let us know in the comments below!
one simple tweak that can add up to some major sugar-slashing: switch out all those juices, flavored milks and sodas for plain ol’ water. if your kids are used to the sweet stuff, they’ll most likely protest at first, but they’ll adapt and improve their teeth-, kidney- and bone-health in the process. they’ll also lower their chances of developing health issues like type-2 diabetes or chronic heart disease in the future. wanna wean them off the flavored drinks rather than going cold turkey with plain h2o? try adding fruit + herbs to their water for a natural flavor boost.