Modern Mom: Lead by example when it comes to nutrition

Sarah Brooks

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As a mom, our job entails more than potty training, sleep training and manners (though those are all important). We also want to raise our kids to make healthy choices when it comes to food. Here's a simple guide on how to do just that.

Mother and daughter making a salad

Photo credit: Hero Images/Getty images

Your habits — both good and bad — have a pretty decent chance of being passed on to your kids. If you smoke, for example, there's an increased risk of your children lighting up, even if you quit before you had them. Children learn from you and keep a close watch on what you are or are not doing. Growing up, my mom was a Diet Coke drinker. This led me to give it a try at the young age of 11 and now, almost 20 years later, I'm still drinking it. So, what can we parents do to help make sure our kids grow up to be nutrition-minded and want to take care of their bodies?

Research at Michigan State University found that those who eat a healthy diet themselves set the best example for children. Moms that splurge on junk food and believe in treating themselves frequently are more likely to have kids that do the same. When it comes to food, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Give up trying to control what your child eats

Research shows that using food as a reward or punishment creates kids that have an unhealthy relationship with food. Instead, let your child take the reins and decide for themselves what and how much they want to eat. To prevent kids from choosing cookies for breakfast, ice cream for lunch and cake for dinner (because, what child wouldn't pick that?), don't have it in the house. Let your child see you making healthy choices and soon they will start making healthy choices, too.

My little girl sees me eat an apple each and every day for breakfast. She typically eats yogurt, Cheerios, a Nutri-Grain bar or eggs. Though all those items are relatively healthy, lately she's been requesting a few apple slices to go with whatever she's eating. Hey, if Mama's eating it, it must be good.

Don't binge in secret

Kids are incredibly aware — much more so than we give them credit for. If you're sneaking bowls of ice cream after they go to bed or clearing out that bag of chips during nap time, there's a good chance they know about it. Instead of hiding it, try one of two things: Either let them see you eating a small amount of the unhealthy item or don't eat the unhealthy item at all.

So, what should you eat?

Think healthy and homemade over processed and 'fast;' green and leafy over sweet and sugary; and '100 percent whole-wheat' instead of white. Get creative with your menus and snacks instead of feeding your kids the same things over and over. A personal favorite in my house is homemade burrito bowls — brown rice, sautéed veggies, black beans, lettuce, avocado, shredded cheese, tomatoes and mild salsa. Baked sweet potato fries, grilled salmon and steamed veggies are some other favorites. Expose your kids to a variety of healthy foods and let them discover what they like and what they don't. You're their teacher and their guide, not their dictator.

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Sarah Brooks
Newlywed, new mom and first-time home buyer, Sarah is currently playing out her exciting life in Phoenix, Arizona. She recently gave up her job in finance to stay at home with her baby girl, who between bath time and feeding time, keeps her very busy. In addition to settling into her new neighborhood and parenthood, she is also a writer and contributor for SheKnows.com.