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Want to Raise Healthy Kids? Start by Raising a Healthy You.

“Hey mom, does yogurt have gluten in it?” my 3-year-old daughter asked recently. “Nope, no gluten in yogurt,” I replied in a hushed voice, blushing until I remembered we were boarding a flight to San Francisco and likely surrounded by people whose kids talk about gluten as freely as they talk about legos and Frozen. I have cut gluten out of my diet for the last few months for a specific health reason, and even with intentionally little discussion about it, my kids have noticed.

Their little eyes are always watching.

In the modern age of helicopter parenting and hyper-scheduled kids, parenting advice abounds to help us raise healthy kids. Suburban parents scour grocery aisles for glass bottles and organic strawberries and milk from the next town over. While our kids sleep soundly in their flame retardant free pajamas, we wake up early to pre-register for the coveted swimming lesson spots. We read books and dig deep into the trenches of the Internet to find out whether our kids are meeting or exceeding what’s normal for children their ages.

Of course, none of this is harmful, and most likely, eating diets with fewer pesticides, learning social skills on the soccer fields, and taking gold-medal winning vitamins will help give these kids a great shot in life. But if we think these micro tactics are the driving force in growing healthy kids, we’re kidding ourselves.

Raising healthy kids starts by raising healthy parents.

Our choices as parents play an enormous role in our children’s fates. Not surprisingly, a joint Baylor and Duke study found that children are more likely to exercise, be active or join a sports team if their parents are engaged in a healthy lifestyle. A Stanford study found that 48 percent of children with overweight parents became overweight, compared with 13 percent of those with normal-weight parents. And anecdotally, my own kids put on my running shoes and headlamp and pretend they’re going running — not because they think running is a chore, but because they think it’s a privilege.

As parents, it’s easy to push our own well-being to the wayside in favor of optimizing the well-being of our children. But the ironic thing is, what they need most is to see us taking care of ourselves. Our kids need to see us cooking and eating green vegetables, playing outside, keeping hobbies alive, sleeping, and living lives we can be proud of.  At least when they’re small, our cool is their cool.  What we do, they aspire to do.

So next time you think about skipping your workout or reaching for Cheddar Bunnies instead of carrots, remember, those little eyes are always watching. And the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Well said. I work in a library and often people will come in looking for cookbooks that feature making healthy options appetizing for children, and more than once these parents have commented while I’m checking out their books that while they, themselves, don’t like vegetables, they realize that their children need to eat them. I wish these parents could see the connection between their own eating habits and those of their children.

    May 27, 2014
  2. I used a link to this post in my current blog piece on obesity in pregnancy. Eating well during pregnancy affects the health of your future child in more and more ways.

    June 3, 2014
  3. I agree!

    June 4, 2014

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