What Kind of Parent Are You?
Are you the kind of parent who espouses the old concept, “Do as I say, not as I do.”? If you are, then perhaps you have some health and lifestyle habits (maybe your diet?) that aren’t so exemplary. Children form eating habits early in life. If you are setting a poor example in terms of diet, then you and your child may both lose. On the other hand, if you encourage healthy eating and you follow your own advice, you may both be in a win-win position. A regular pattern of healthy, low-fat eating — beginning in childhood — is the best start for a healthy heart in adulthood.
Since children often model their parents, you may be sabotaging your efforts to raise healthy eaters if you do the following:
- Discourage “fast food,” but when you give into an occasional trip to McDonald’s (as every parent must) you can’t resist the urge to pilfer french fries from your child’s plate.
- For convenience sake, rely heavily on take-out meals, which are likely to be high in fat.
- Utter commands such as “eat your broccoli” at the dinner table, but personally choose to skip the broccoli, or perhaps even skip dinner entirely because you’re “dieting”.
- Use trips to the ice cream parlor as rewards and treats.
- Make frequent references to your weight, which heightens your children’s own weight-consciousness and may lead to unhealthy attitudes toward food.
- Are susceptible to the latest fad diet, which teaches unhealthy eating behaviors to your children.
- Talk about exercising but never get up and do it.
It’s a good idea to occasionally try to see yourself as others see you: are you a health-food hypocrite? It’s also a good idea to occasionally evaluate your children’s eating habits, to see if some changes are in order. With young children, this is usually easy. Often, their greatest dietary fault is too much snacking on high-fat “junk” foods. With adolescents, the scenario becomes more complicated.
Teens often take things to the extreme — and eating is no exception. Going overboard, such as cutting out entire food groups, fervently following a fad diet, or consuming a single food to excess are all common characteristics of teenage dieters. And when dieting progresses to an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating, the physical and psychological consequences can be devastating. For teens that want to lose weight, the good old Food Pyramid with its balance of grains, fruits, vegetables, and protein groups is hard to beat, registered dieticians say. The whole family might just benefit from this tried-and-true approach.
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