Eat Right, Be Active: Lead by Example with the Real-Life Guide for Parents

Celebrities aside, parents are kids’ number one role model. Ask any parent what their biggest challenge is for taking steps to be a good healthy role model for kids and they’ll tell you it’s not having enough time. Even with today’s hectic lifestyles, being a good role model takes less time than you think. And, rest assured, it’s okay to take one step at a time.

The following fun, easy and time-saving tips are excerpted from the Real-Life Guide for Parents, a new resource that can help parents lead their kids down the path to a lifetime of healthful habits:

Healthful Eating Basics

  • Give kids a healthful variety of foods. Allow them to choose what and how much to eat from what you offer.
  • Tune into hunger cues. Teach kids to eat when they’re hungry, not just because it’s a habit, like snacking in front of the TV. 
  • Cancel your family membership in the clean plate club. Eat until you’re satisfied, not overly full. 
  • Make sure everyone eats breakfast. Offer quick options such as whole-grain cereal, yogurt, fruit, low-fat milk and 100% fruit juice. 
  • Keep snacks such as cut-up veggies, fruit, and whole-wheat crackers upfront in the fridge or cabinet so they’re easy for kids to see and grab.

When It Comes to Treats, Size Matters!

You don’t have to banish kids’ favorite treats such as chips, cookies and candy. Doing so might make kids want them even more. So, offer them just once in awhile andin sensible portions.

  • Buy single-serving sizes of chips and cookies, or portion your own into re-sealable snack bags.
  • When you eat out, split the fries, onion rings or dessert among the whole family.
  • Serve beverages such as soft drinks in small glasses.
  • Let your kids see you enjoying small portions.

Be a Screen Time Monitor!
Try these tips to set some limits on screen time and get your kids moving:

  • Set a Screen Time Budget. Allot kids one to two hours per day to spend on TV, video games or fun time on the computer—their choice!
  • Devise an After-School Action Plan. Brainstorm with your kids to create a “Top 10” list of activities to get them on their feet—and away from the screen—after school.
  • Click it Off at Meal Times. A “no TV” policy during family meals channels your attention into what’s going on in each other’s lives.

Playing With Your Kids. The Best Exercise of All!

Kids should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity, preferably every day. All kinds of activities count, so encourage kids to get moving by walking fast, running, dancing, jumping rope, riding bikes, skating, swimming, playing basketball and soccer—even climbing stairs.

  • Get active with your kids—it gives you more quality time with them, boosts your energy and helps you manage stress. Make family time active time with these ideas:
  • Head out for a family walk or bike ride after dinner.
  • Go on a family vacation that includes walking, hiking, swimming or biking.
  • Practice sports such as basketball or baseball with the kids. 
  • Build activity into special gatherings. Hold a scavenger hunt or play volleyball at family picnics.

Help Your Kids Strike the Right Balance
One of the most important skills you can “model” for your kids is how to maintain a healthy weight by balancing the calories in the foods you eat with the calories you burn through physical activity.

Striking the right balance doesn’t involve tricky math or tracking every bite of food and every body move. Start by setting an example—eat moderately-sized portions and be physically active yourself. Then, do things together like eating a lighter dinner after a bigger-than-usual lunch or taking a walk after enjoying an occasional treat. Make sure kids get plenty of daily active play time to help them balance out what they eat.

Being Healthy Takes Less Time Than You Think
If not having enough time is your biggest barrier to being healthy, you are not alone. With today’s hectic lifestyles, many parents feel the same way. Rest assured, it’s OK to take one step at a time. Here are a few tips that might actually help you save time:

  • Map out a week of healthful meals and snacks so you can stock up on what you need in one trip to the store.
  • Use supermarket time-savers such as rotisserie chicken, quick-cooking brown rice, pre-washed salad greens and canned or frozen fruits and vegetables.
  • Ask kids to help you plan their school lunches and family dinners for the week and make the shopping list.
  • Enlist their help with meal prep. Even younger kids can do simple tasks such as tearing lettuce for a salad or spooning yogurt on top of fruit for dessert.

Download a single copy of You’re the Role Model! Real-Life Guide for Parents from or order 10-packs of printed copies from the IFIC Foundation Publications Store at