Your Bad Habits: Don't Hand Them Down

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While it's true that as kids get older you have less influence on them as parents, don't discount your role in modeling good (and bad) behavior. While what you say to them may sometimes fall on deaf ears, what you do will certainly be noticed. That's why it's so important to help kids develop good health habits that will carry them through their lives. Have you been a couch potato for the past few years? Now's the time to make changes that will help you—and your whole family—be healthier.

  • Get everyone moving. You don't have to train for a marathon, but let your kids see that there's more to weekends than watching TV. Invest in several rakes, snow shovels, and gardening tools so everyone can pitch in with lawn and property care year round. Buy bikes and explore your neighborhood together. Walk to the drugstore for school supplies instead of automatically hopping in your car.
  • Cook and eat together. Studies show that children who eat with their families develop healthier habits overall than those who dine unsupervised. Encourage everyone to don an apron and help with the chopping, marinating, and mixing. Then enjoy the meal together. If you can't always manage dinner together due to busy schedules, aim for breakfast. Or at least make Saturday or Sunday brunch a habit.
  • Tread carefully with technology. Families should have limits on computer, video game, and TV time. Aim for no more than two hours of screen time each day, and encourage kids to be active while they're not in front of a screen.
  • Familiarize kids with food labels. Teach your children what healthy amounts of fats, sugars, sodium, and carbohydrates are, then search out your favorite products in the supermarket and compare them to see which are the most healthful. Make a game of seeing who can find the breakfast cereal with the most fiber or the ice cream with the least saturated fat.
  • Offer healthy rewards. For a job well done, don't automatically take your kids out for fast food. Instead, focus on non-food rewards such as gift cards to bookstores or clothing boutiques. If you habitually dangle junk food as a reward or a prize, kids will see it as something inherently more desirable than fresh, healthy food.

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American Psychological Association

American Heart Association