Health has many definitions, but no matter how you look at it, it’s the foundation for our fitness, energy and stamina until death. Motherhood comes with its own set of challenges, but one of our primary jobs is raising healthy children. Before you get crazy with details, realize this is more than forcing broccoli as a side dish. This is about teaching habits that go with a toddler to elementary school, through high school and into college and all the way to businesswoman or businessman extraordinaire.
Let’s take each facet of life and discuss habits that are stepping stones to the next phase.
Flavors are starting to develop and the art of cooking and manipulating flavors can be powerful. Here is where you hide nutritious items and create combinations that are tasty enough for the pickiest eaters yet bring nutrition with each bite.
Getting children involved in the kitchen is paramount at this stage. I realize it can be messy, but the lessons of flavors and tasting are invaluable and make life easier as kids grow. Simple things like marinara sauce, ground beef, smoothies and even pancakes can hide more than you imagine. Your food processor is your best friend in the kitchen. Also, teach them what protein is. Granted, it won’t happen overnight, but you can lay the groundwork.
Great health also incorporates activity; playing and running should be main staples of exercise. Be sure they get their movement in before TV or electronics. I hate to say it, but toddlers are like dogs: they need to run in order to get all their energy out in a healthy, productive manner. Join them; the bonding is awesome and the calories burned are even better.
Elementary school age
These tikes have opinions, but you hold the keys to the kitchen. Your children will not starve, and I say this to you with love. Many kids demand a different dish and you must stay strong and create variety in the meal. There should be no thought of making something else to get them to eat.
If you are exposing children to the kitchen, you will have a good eater. If not, it’s time to get busy. The more exposure they have, the more open they are to trying new things. It’s time to incorporate a fruit or vegetable into every meal and snack. They will gravitate toward processed foods if you let them. Let that happen at a friend’s house, not yours. Your home is the forefront of health. In my home, we have a “4-taste rule.” Foods need to be tasted on four different occasions before being deemed evil.
OK, my friends, this is a time when the kids should make breakfast for YOU. By now they need to be able to follow a basic recipe. You are training them to function completely on their own and it’s time they kick in. They should understand food choices, how energy is impacted by wrong choices and how the right combination of proteins, fats and carbohydrates can empower or drain them. They are old enough to buy snacks, so this is where the earlier years of coaching come through.
As for fitness, they may gravitate to a sport in early years. Keeping them in organized sports is easier now than trying to find what they can do for fitness. For those in organized sports, you’re good to go, but for those with no plan, consider taking a class or activity together to create a bonding time. If not, encourage them to do activities with friends. Movement needs to be a part of every day. These habits go to college and beyond. Keep in mind that muscle has memory. Even if fitness is on hold during some college years, they have a foundation and it will be much easier to become fit once again.
As for fitness, this is a time for sports or outdoor play for hours. Everything works better with activity: your brain, energy and attitude. Encouraging activity before TV and electronics sets the stage for habits of a lifetime.
Your coaching comes full circle at this point. You send young ones off into the world with hopes that they make the right choices and you have instilled the right habits to carry them through. Think of it this way: do you want to send out an overweight, lazy, junk-food junkie into the world or a well-nourished, active adult who can cook great meals and is a snob for good nutrition?
Now, all of us have our challenging cases, but with love and persistence, keeping an active lifestyle and choosing the right food become the norm for your entire family. It’s all in how you present it—you’ve got this!
I am driven to help you live a healthy, inspired life.
About the writer →Adita Lang is author of “SuperPowers: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Health & Happiness” and “SuperPowers of the Family Kitchen.” She holds a degree in holistic nutrition and is a certified holistic lifestyle coach and health professional.