The EatSmart Blog

Providing Tools and Tips to Live Healthier, Happier Lives

10 Bad Eating Habits Parents Often Teach their Kids

Guest post by journalist, Suzanne Cullen.

Kids most often learn by example and I think we as parents tend to forget that fact as they get older. Once our kids are a little more self-reliant we usually go back to our habits as they were pre-children. As life picks up, moms go back to work when the kids start school, and everything gets busier, and it gets harder and harder to set a good example for our kids. Do you do any of the following bad habits in front of your kids?

#1 Salting your food before you taste it: This used to be a secret test that interviewers would use to size up a candidate for a job. Their reasoning? Salting your food before you taste it at a restaurant means that you have preconceived notions about how it will taste and this could trend over into other aspects of your personality. With children, using too much salt is a bad habit to get into because it’s not good for blood pressure and it makes your body retain water. Instead, try to use other spices to season your food, adding flavor without unnecessary sodium.

#2 Eating really fast: In our frenetic lives of running our children from activity to activity we often don’t have time to sit down as a family and enjoy our food. Eating too fast can lead to over eating because your body doesn’t realize that it’s full until after you’re done eating, and this can lead to weight gain. This is especially bad for our children because we are not teaching them to enjoy their food and listen to their body’s hunger cues. When they feel full they should stop eating.

#3 Skipping breakfast: We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day so why do so many adults still skip it? Scientific studies have shown that people who eat breakfast weigh less than those that skip breakfast so why do so many women still skip breakfast to save calories? Kids especially need breakfast to fuel their bodies and brains for a long day at school. Unlike adults, they can’t – and shouldn’t – get up and go to the vending machine when they are hungry.

#4 Midnight snacking: This late night habit of grabbing a snack is terrible for your system. Odds are that you are going to go to bed very soon after eating and those calories are not going to get burned off, which will also lead to weight gain. Kids who are active burn up calories a lot faster than adults and might need a healthy snack before they go to bed, but it should be at least a half an hour before bedtime and definitely not at midnight.

#5 Eating while driving: Again, in our hectic lives we’re constantly running from one activity to another, whether with the same child or a different child or our own personal activities. We grab a bite through the drive-thru and inhale it while going down the road, and we are inadvertently teaching our kids the same as they eat their nuggets and watch us in the back seat. What we should be showing them is to drive undistracted and that it’s important to focus on our food and enjoy what we are eating. Mindless eating is what also another cause of people being overweight.

#6 Skipping vegetables: We always think of children as not liking vegetables, but there are plenty of adults who don’t like vegetables either and it’s very hard to get your kids to eat vegetables if you don’t. Kids learn by example, and when you skip veggies they will skip them too.

#7 Eating out a lot: See a reoccurring theme here? When we are busy there’s no time for preparing a home cooked meal. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that restaurant food has a lot more sodium and calories than a home cooked meal. Look into other options, such as making meals ahead of time on the weekends so you can just take them from the freezer and heat them up, or get out your slow cooker and use it for hectic weeknights. What’s nice about a slow cooker is that if you take a few minutes in the morning to prepare it and turn it on you can forget it until you get home. Also, if you eat in shifts everyone can eat hot food when they are ready to eat.

#8 Consuming large portions: While we are out in those restaurants that we all love to frequent we are served huge portions of food that are much larger than the portions we should be eating. If we don’t get a big portion then we think we aren’t getting our money’s worth, but the portion sizes are at least twice if not three times that of a regular portion size. What we should be doing is eating the kid’s portion size instead. Keep in mind that our stomach is the size of our fist and that is how much food you should be putting in there. If you eat more than that you run the risk of stretching your stomach and then it will take more food to fill you up next time.

#9 Dipping food in sauces: Ketchup, mayonnaise, honey mustard, and ranch dressing are just a few of those wonderful sauces that we love to dip our food into. We can take a perfectly healthy stalk of celery and ruin it by dipping it into ranch dip. Our already unhealthy and greasy French fries get dipped in ketchup or mayonnaise so we can add a few hundred more calories to them. Kids learn by example, and if you think it tastes good then odds are they will too.

#10 Not drinking enough water:  Serve water or milk at meals instead of other sugary options and your kids will be a lot healthier for it. As adults, we usually have coffee in the morning and then have a soft drink while out for lunch with friends from work. By the evening we’ll have anything from another soft drink to a glass of wine with dinner.  During the day if we need a pick-me-up we’ll grab a caffeinated beverage. At no time do we drink water. If you drink more water your kids will drink more water and everyone will be a lot healthier for it.

How did you overcome any of these bad habits?

About the Author: Suzanne Cullen, regularly writes for http://www.aupair.org/. She is a graduate in English literature and currently pursuing her masters in Online Journalism. She can be reached via email at: suzanneclln91@gmail.com.

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