We could all list our less-than awesome habits. And, we all know habits are hard to break. Interesting enough, all habits form the same way. Psychologists call this pattern a “habit loop“.
The loop is a three-step process:
- It begins with a cue that tells the brain how or what behavior to do.
- The second step is to form a routine, which we often talk about when we think of habits.
- The third step is the reward or something that the brain likes to help it remember the “habit loop” in the future.
Once the habit loop is formed and your habit becomes an automatic behavior the brain no longer needs to decide what to do. It becomes a routine or habit.
So, if you want to stop one routine and create another you need to rework how your brain functions. Imagine trying to change the way you drive after 15 years of forming driving habits. Not an easy task!
Now think about the habits your kids are developing right now. One of the most important habits to help your kids develop is eating healthy. There are numerous health risks that occur from being overweight so the key is first, create healthy eating habits for yourself. Then teach your kids the same habits.
Here are four reasons you need to teach your kids healthy eating habits now, and ideas to help you along the way.
1. We’re drinking our ‘junk food’ without realizing it
It’s so easy after a long day to simply swing by a fast food drive through rather than take the hour to plan and cook dinner. But, junk food expands beyond the greasy cheeseburger and sweet candy bar. We tend to forget that our kids, and ourselves, are actually drinking junk food all day. According to the American Heart Association, the average amount of sugar intake adults are allowed is 100-150 calories per day. A 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola contains 140 calories from sugar. That’s just ONE! Reducing calories is hard enough and by choosing to drink a soda, you’re choosing to inhale your entire amount of daily-allotted sugar.
For kids, sugar intake is even less. Children ages 4 to 8 who average 1,600 calories per day should limit added sugar intake to about 3 teaspoons (12 grams) a day according to BJC Healthcare. Just to give you an idea of the amount of sugar your kids might be drinking, here is a quick reference guide:
• Minute Maid Kids +; 24grams
• Chocolate milk; 24 grams
• Juicy Juice, cherry; 27 grams
• Motts Apple Juice; 28 grams
• Gatorade, lemon; 28 grams
• Dr. Pepper; 40 grams
• Can of Coke; 39 gram
What You Can Do:
✓ Learn to love water and teach your kids to do the same. Always keep fresh, clean water on hand. Whether it’s from the fridge door or your sink filter, always have cold water available. Simple!
✓ Satisfy the kiddos sweet cravings by buying naturally flavored water or making your own fruit-infused mixtures (the kids can even help customize flavors).
✓ Set an example by stopping your soda consumption, too. That includes diet varieties! Ditch the pop and keep your energy boost with a low-calorie, sugar-free, and gives you energy with a blend of green tea and caffeine.
2.The older a person gets, the harder it is to lose weight and keep it off
That’s probably something most of us noticed when we gained the “freshman 15” or tried to lose weight after a baby. Losing weight is tough, that’s nothing new. But according to a study by the American Journal of Public Health, it may be even more difficult than we thought.
In the study, researchers found that the average obese woman only has a one in 124 chance of returning to a normal weight. The odds are even worse for the men. They have a one in 210 chance of returning to a normal weight. And those people who did achieve their weight loss goals of losing five percent of their weight or more, more than half had gained it back within two years.
What You Can Do:
✓ By never getting to an unhealthy weight, people have a better chance of staying at that normal weight.
✓ If those bad habits have formed already, there is always a chance and an opportunity for a person to make good habits.
✓ Start making moving a part of your usual activities. Tablet and TV time after dinner? Not anymore! Get outside, get playing, and just get moving.
3. Feeling healthy brings happiness
When people feel good, they feel happy. That’s why people feel invigorated after a good workout; it puts you in control of your body and your life. WebMD performed stress tests in London and noticed that the happiest participants were also the ones who had the lower resting heart rates. The two correlate! That means healthy kids will be happy kids and vice versa. If a child begins life with good habits that bring happiness, those memories and good feelings will last through adulthood.
What You Can Do:
✓ Don’t use food as a reward. If the kiddos do well at school or in a soccer game, don’t use the local ice cream parlor as the reward.
✓ Similarly, don’t use junk food as a reward for eating healthy food. You’re creating a connection in your kids’ minds that healthy food is icky and can only be tolerated by eating something unhealthy afterward.
✓ Use activity as a reward, instead! Whether it’s going to a splash pad or spending an hour at a trampoline park, this gets your kids moving and associating positive memories to getting active.
4. Habits that start now last into adulthood
Researchers at Newcastle University performed a study on numerous individuals and found that siblings between ages 10 to 18 shared the same health habits, and thus similar BMIs, good or bad. Furthermore, even in siblings 27 to 55, the similarities remained. This is just more proof that the impact we have on our children’s eating and exercise habits is real and pervasive.
What You Can Do:
✓ Everything we’ve talked about above! Make teaching your kids healthy habits a top priority until it becomes your lifestyle.
✓ Start with YOURSELF. Our children are so insightful, when you change your habits, they’ll do the same.
Children have the power to become anything they want to be. By living a healthy and happy life, we can help them become successful at becoming what they want to become. I don’t remember the exact moment I learned to ride a bike, but now it’s natural–the feel of the pedals under my feet, pedaling to keep my balance. Healthy habits and good, solid exercise can become that natural.
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