Being a Role Model for Your Kids Can Help Them Attain a Healthy Lifestyle

Adults who adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle through good eating habits and physical activity set a good example for children and help ensure that they acquire healthy habits, too.
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“Early intervention against overweight and obesity is crucial,” Rear Admiral Steven K. Galson, MD, MPH, acting US surgeon general, said in a statement. “This is because children learn lifelong eating and activity habits at a young age. Using family time to help children develop good habits will benefit them now and throughout their lives.”

As they grow older, overweight children and adolescents are more likely to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are risk factors associated with heart disease, according to the OSG. They also have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and may experience social discrimination, which is associated with low self-esteem and depression.

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To help prevent these problems, adults have a responsibility to “shape children’s eating and activity habits,” says Jennifer Buschick, spokesperson for the OSG. “It’s very important that adults are role models for our children; children like to emulate what adults do.”

To develop good eating habits, the OSG encourages parents and their children to shop, cook, and plan healthy meals together. Additionally, eating together as a family encourages children to consume more whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

It can be hard to draw the line between being a positive role model, and turning kids off by preaching healthy messages. In the WeightWatchers.com article, How to Raise Healthy Kids, Weight Watchers International chief scientific officer Karen Miller-Kovach advises, "Don't really talk about what's healthy; just provide healthy foods. Kids learn by watching you, not from lectures about saturated fat.”

If taking these steps will mean changing the daily patterns in your kids’ lives, you may be met with resistance. But there are ways of making the changes fun and apparently effortless. In the WeightWatchers.com article, 9 Sneaky Ways to Get Your Kids Moving, the steps recommended include swapping movie night in favor of bowling or miniature golf — exercises that are fun, competitive and can involve the whole family.

In the new PSA, “Take the Lead,” children emulate adults as they exercise, eat nutritious meals, make healthy food choices, and practice good hygiene. The PSA closes with a message from Galson urging viewers to take part in leading young people to a healthy future.

He also directs the audience to a parent or caregiver checklist available on the OSG’s Web site, which in addition to diet and exercise recommendations, provides tips such as limiting children’s television and other screen time to less than 2 hours daily and ensuring they get enough sleep each night.

A Spanish version of the PSA, "Mi Cocina," is also available, and encourages helpful tips on healthy eating.

The OSG is distributing the PSAs as part of its “Healthy Youth for a Healthy Future” public information initiative. For more information go to SurgeonGeneral.gov.

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