Becoming America’s Next Top (Food) Role Model

No one said that being the “food police” was an easy job. Between catering to picky eaters and working around busy schedules, sometimes it’s hard to get the whole family excited about a healthy meal. Parents are the most likely to feel the brunt of this family dining dilemma. According to a recent University of Michigan survey, only about one-third of parents think they are doing a good job helping their kids eat healthier. But if you’re a parent, your biggest weapon in the fight for a healthier, happy family might be right under your nose (literally).

Like Parent, Like Child

Parents’ personal eating choices and behaviors have a huge effect on kids. Research has long shown the importance of modeling healthy eating behaviors for kids, especially during the first five years of life. Researchers are still working out the details about how this works on several different levels. Still, the consensus is simple: The more healthy choices you make for yourself, the more likely your kids are likely to follow suit.

Embrace the Spotlight

There is an inevitable pressure that comes from the fact that your kids are learning from your habits. Don’t give in to the temptation to shrink away from the spotlight. Instead, embrace your status as a role model. There are many fun ways to get your kids involved in your food decision-making process. Shopping and cooking as a family can help kids get first-hand experience making healthy choices. For older kids, teach them how to read a nutrition facts label to help them make better choices for themselves.  

Setting a good example can be as easy as enjoying all the flavors of a healthy meal with your kids. Try bringing some mindfulness to the dinner table. Highlight the flavors, textures, and scents of your food in mealtime conversation. This will help your kids see that healthy food is meant to be enjoyed. If you’re dining at home, switch off the TV and tablets in favor of family time. This will help the whole family tune out distractions and tune in to the experience of eating.

For more tips on becoming a healthy role model, check out this MyPlate resource from USDA.