By Jayger’s Mom Heather
Healthy habits start young, according to a series of studies that have been released over the years in the Journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics . Essentially, the studies say— the younger the better. Start early and began instilling healthy habits in your kids.
One of the studies found that babies who consumed even small amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages were two times more likely to drink them at least once a day by age 6. Another found that infants who were given sugar- sweetened beverages more than three times a week were twice as likely to be obese at age 6 than those who weren’t given sugary drinks. To think we used to eat Pop Tarts and drink YooHoo for breakfast every morning as kids!
As a culture, we’re learning and realizing the importance of teaching healthy habits to our kids. There’s a lot of things my parents did right … and not so right while I was growing up. I wished they pressed me to learn the piano, for example. How satisfying it would be now to regale guests after dinner with sing-a-long show tunes or at least have Let It Be in my back pocket when I’m feeling melancholy. Or even a martial art! What confidence I’d have walking the streets of New York knowing I have a karate chop and high kick that could level a bad guy, just in case.
But the thought of starting any of this now? Oy! Nearly Inconceivable!
Truth is, the thought of changing a few components of my diet at this stage in life is equally as daunting.
Isn’t it something like ten times harder to learn a new practice as an adult? But kids, kids! They are fresh fallen snow. Teaching healthy habits to your kids should be easier. They are little sponges soaking up their environment, or computer chips awaiting our imprinting (to a degree, of course). And in addition to stimulating physical activities, good dental hygiene and proper manners (saying “please” and “thank you”, chewing with your mouth closed), what better gift can we give our children than good eating and drinking habits?
Instilling healthy habits in your kids is so important. Even the government has woken up to this fact by passing the Healthy Habits Tots Act this year, a comprehensive early child wellness legislation which provides more than $1 billion in federal matching funds to raise the nutritional standard of food served in early childhood care centers, as well as grants for nutritional education on healthy habits. As a mom, that thrills me. I’d be nice to see more fit and healthy Americans reaching for broccoli rather than second servings of mac and cheese in the future.
I’m not trying to be overly vigilant, but I am teaching Jayger to care about what goes into his body and learn healthy habits. He sees me looking at food labels, reading ingredients, and opting for more fruits and vegetables than french fries and ice cream. And water, of course! Tickle Water instead of soda and apple juice is the mainstay in our household. I want Jayger— and your kids— to understand that eating green beans, while drinking a root beer or a chocolate shake, simply cancels out the benefits of those nutritious vegetables. Drinking healthy is as important as eating healthy.
I’ve got to believe my efforts are making an impression— that Jayger will carry these good healthy habits with him into the future. That he’ll nurture his body and protect his good health all the days of his life.
But as a parent, of course, you can only do so much. It does seem, however, that the earlier you do it, the better. All signs say, the sooner you start instilling healthy habits in your kids’’ daily life, the easier it will be for them later.
What a gift, right?