One of life’s biggest anxieties as a parent is the idea that one day, your kids are going to have to start making their own choices. This applies to big-picture things like career and college prospects, but also to the small stuff, like how to eat well, keep themselves healthy, and be safe.

The good news, however, is that you have plenty of time to influence them as they grow up. Here are a few simple things you can do to guide them in the right direction when it comes to their own safety and overall well-being.

Be a Good Example

It may not always feel like it, but you are the main role model in your child’s life. From the day they are born, your behavior influences theirs more than anyone else’s. This means that the most important part of encouraging healthy choices is to make them yourself.

  • Eat healthy meals alongside them. Never give them a separate plate of veggies, for instance, that you’re also not eating.

  • Take any opportunity to exercise as a family, such as walks, dancing, or yard work

  • Teach them to enjoy cooking so they grow up with a love of healthy homemade food (and a knowledge of how to make it). Kids can get involved in the kitchen at any age.

This is especially important if you are worried about your child’s weight. Research has shown that talking to a child about their weight — especially young girls — can be damaging throughout their lives. If you think your child needs to lose weight, don’t tell them. Simply set a good example so that the household becomes a healthier environment.

Limit Caffeine Intake

Caffeine is the only drug that most kids are regularly exposed to from a very early age. About 73 percent of children consume caffeine on any given day, which is worrying given its many negative side effects. Caffeine increases blood pressure, slows down heart rate, causes jitteriness and nervousness, and can impair sleep.

Giving children caffeine can also create a habit that bleeds into adulthood. In order to prevent this, keep caffeine away from kids under 12, and monitor it for older teens. If you want to give them soda as a treat, buy the caffeine-free type.

Don’t Stop at Driving Lessons

When the time comes for a teenager to learn to drive, most parents stop at the actual driving lessons. However, it is useful to take a bit longer to teach them about all the responsibilities that come with driving. This helps them become a more conscientious (and thus safer) driver. For example, they should understand car insurance 101, including how it works, what it’s for, what it covers, and what happens if someone drives uninsured.

Have Open Conversations

At some point, your kids are going to be exposed to alcohol and drugs. This is a terrifying reality for most parents, but you should resist the urge to simply prohibit these things. You were a teenager at one point in your life, and you know that doesn’t work. Instead, focus on open and honest communication. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids suggests selecting a good time and place for the talk and using active listening, empathy, and “I” statements (e.g: “I feel like…”) so your teen doesn’t feel under pressure. It is also recommended that you have this talk earlier than you think — around the ages of 12 to 14.

The same goes for the sex talk, that dreaded moment of parenthood. However, be open and welcome any questions. Sure, it’s awkward, but it’s better than them getting answers from the internet or worse — from their peers. If you need help, Today’s Parent has a great guide on how to talk to kids about sex age-by-age.

Remember, it’s not about forcing or imposing healthy “rules” on your kids. Instead, you want to guide them toward the best decisions for their minds and bodies. Rules are easily broken the second they gain some independence. Choices build up in their minds and become durable habits that they will take with them into adulthood.

You know the risks. A poor diet packed with fat, sugar and salt leads to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Would you wish that on your children and spouse? Of course not, and it should be enough reason to start eating balanced meals full of the fruits, veggies and protein that everyone needs to keep their bodies in form.

But there’s more to it. The way you eat, drink and love helps you cope with stress and anxiety plays an integral role in mental health. That means that a kid who grows up eating right and exercising will able to deal with any emotional trouble that life throws at them and with aplomb. Here are some ways you can give them that gift.

Lead by Example

They won’t eat healthy if you don’t. According to a pair of psychologists writing for Slate magazine, modeling the appropriate behavior has a much greater effect than simply telling your children what to do, and that can be a strong force for good if you’re willing to put down the bag of chips and eat a few carrot or celery spears yourself.

Teach Them, Too

They’ll be even more inclined to choose apples over cookies if you explain the basics of nutrition and how it affects their bodies. The key is giving them choices. For example, ask the little ones if they would like baby carrots or peas for dinner.

Shop Wisely

Shopping wisely begins before you even go to the store. Start by making a list that includes all the fruits, veggies, lean proteins and whole grains you need for the week, then have something to eat as you do not want to go by the snack aisle on an empty stomach and start straying from your plan. If you’re worried about temptation, stay near the perimeter of the store, as that’s where all of the whole foods are stored, chime in the folks at CookingLight.

Try New Recipes

So you’ve got the right meats and veggies, but do you know what to do with them? New recipes are a great way to sample exotic flavors while giving your healthy meal plan a kick in the butt. Chad, Greece and Israel boast some of the richest and leanest cuisines in the world, and they’re yours for the exploring if you want to serve up something exciting for your next family dinner.

Involve the Kids

You could use some help in the kitchen, and that’s a job for the little ones as they need to learn how to cook if they’re going to eat healthy as they grow older. It’s a crucial life skill that also helps in the development of fine motor skills through all that slicing, dicing and stirring. The best thing is, you’ll have no trouble convincing them to join you at the chopping board as there’s nothing else the little ones like more than playing adult.

Eat Together

You’ve cooked together, so enjoy the fruits of your labor together at the table. When they see you enjoying the soup or salad they helped make, it’ll encourage them to spend more time in the kitchen with you preparing healthy meals that have all the right stuff in terms of flavor and nutrients. Besides, it’s a great way for the family to spend time talking about their lives and catching up on their work and studies.

Make Healthy Snacks

Everyone needs something to nibble on from time to time. If you’re willing to put a little time into the preparation, you’ll find what you’re looking for by combining a few simple ingredients such as fruits, veggies, nuts and dairy to create delicious concoctions that add nothing to the waistline but keep your kids going throughout the day with plenty of energy.

With your guidance, the kids will develop healthy habits to last a lifetime and that means stronger bodies and minds so they can face any challenges in their studies or their work. It all begins in the kitchen.

Image via Pixabay.



manageable healthIf you’ve ever tried to make a sweeping New Year’s resolution, like losing 20 pounds, quitting caffeine cold turkey, or running a mile every day, you know how unrealistic and frustrating it can be. The hard truth is that those resolutions usually turn into regrets, lifestyle changes that proved too ambitious, goals you wish you could have achieved if only you’d been stronger and more determined. Maybe the fault doesn’t lie with your resolve at all, but with the scope of your ambition. There are plenty of small, incremental improvements that can easily be incorporated into your life, manageable alterations that will build confidence and leave you feeling better about yourself.

Eliminate salt

Salt is in most of the foods you buy at the grocery store and order at restaurants these days. It makes food taste good, but over time it takes a toll on your body, particularly your blood pressure and cardiovascular system. As sodium builds up, your body retains water to dilute it, which increases the volume of blood in the bloodstream and forces your heart to work harder. Eliminating salt will make it easier to lose weight and reduce your likelihood of developing hypertension. If you’re someone who tends to automatically reach for the salt shaker, try removing it from the dinner table altogether and replacing it with a salt substitute like NuSalt and No Salt, which contain potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride and do not elevate blood pressure.

Commit to cleaner indoor air

Indoor pollutants, allergens, and toxins in the air we breathe every day present a potentially major threat to respiratory health. Unfortunately, a quarter of all Americans rarely clean their air filters, with as many as 11 percent neglecting them altogether. A study revealed that 89 percent of people who had changed their filter within the previous two years found dust, 40 percent encountered hair and pet dander, and 18 percent were breathing air contaminated by insect remains. Invest in a quality air purifier and change or clean your HVAC filter regularly. This is particularly important if you suffer from allergies.

Cheers to your health (in moderation)

There’s a good reason the French say “A votre sante” (meaning “to your health”) when toasting over a glass of red wine. It contains antioxidants, which help prevent heart disease, colon cancer, and depression. But be sure to enjoy your favorite red in moderation. Drinking to excess is hard on your organs and can lead to liver disease and even cancer. In general, a man in good health can safely drink two glasses of red wine a day with no worries; it’s recommended that women, who are at higher risk for liver disease, limit themselves to one glass per day.

Sit up

Most of us don’t think of our posture when considering ways to improve our overall health, but posture and ergonomics can impact your physical well-being in significant ways. Poor posture will, over time, cause chronic back pain and neck strain, and can lead to frequent headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome, a common affliction for people who do a large amount of typing every day. Good posture is an easy adjustment to make and its positive effects can be far-reaching. Try moving your computer monitor, use a chair with better lower-back support, and make sure to get up and move around every half hour or so.

Get more sleep

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in three Americans don’t get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is a serious health problem that can lead to everything from obesity and diabetes to depression and anxiety. So get to bed a little earlier at night to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Sticking to a bedtime routine, in which you hit the sack at the same time and get up at the same time each morning, helps your system get used to a healthy sleeping/waking rhythm. You’ll feel better, more energetic, and lessen your chances of heart attack or stroke. If you’re a problematic sleeper, consider investing in blackout curtains or a sound machine to help you fall asleep more easily.

Climb the stairs

Many people who complain that there’s no time for any exercise in their day may be overlooking a ridiculously easy solution. Try taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator to get a good cardio workout; it’s also a good way to work those leg muscles and help drop a few pounds.

Most of us could incorporate health strategies into our daily lives with relative ease. You don’t need a costly gym membership, and the health rewards are substantial. Simple, incremental dietary, exercise, and lifestyle changes can put you on the road to a healthier, happier you—and you don’t have to wait until New Year’s to start.


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