cooking-togetherWith school, practices, and other obligations, families struggle to get everyone to the table at the same time – let alone prepare a healthy dinner. As parents, it is our responsibility to set an example for our children. Make dinner a priority and set the table with nutritious, heart healthy meals that you enjoy eating. Seeing your enjoyment of good food choices will encourage your children to choose to eat better.

“The fact is that children whose parents eat well and exercise regularly are more likely to adopt those same habits as they grow,” says Jennifer Homendy, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and Fredericksburg Triathlete.

“As a mother of a 5-year-old and a toddler it can be difficult to get them to sit down and eat, let alone get them to eat anything healthy,” says Justine Grueterich, RN. “I try to incorporate fruits and veggies in every snack or meal. I just try to keep it fun.”

“Diet is such a critical part of our happiness as lowered mood, agitation and anxiety often are correlated at least in part to inflammation, largely linked to the foods we consume,” says Elizabeth Howard, MS, NTP, and owner and operator of Liz’z Creative Juices.

Children don’t instinctively gravitate towards macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, French fries and chips, but if asked what they want to eat, most will answer chicken nuggets. Ever since my children were old enough to sit at the table they were eating what we were having for dinner, even if it was pureed in the blender. To this day, they are adventurous eaters trying everything from sushi to veal and are proud members of the “clean plate” club.

“Taking time to put energy into our food by cooking for ourselves, becoming educated about what fuels us, and joyfully making those foods is how we fuel our life, empower ourselves and nourish ourselves deeply,” says Howard.

Homendy adds, “I also try to make it fun by involving my daughter with meal prep. She is more likely to try it if she makes it.”

If you know what the suggested servings are for your children – based on age, gender, and activity level – you’ll know what they’re supposed to eat for maximum health.

“Adding in enjoyable activities on a daily basis, including exercise and social interaction, lifts our mood, adds joy and connects us to family, community and nature,” says Howard.

Get back to basics and get fresh air.

Play as a family in the backyard or at the playground. Being active with your kids gets you moving and is a healthy way of spending family time with them.

“Rather than focusing on traditional exercises, try new things involving the whole family, like hiking, daily walks with the dog, a family game of soccer or basketball,” says Homendy. Creating a family environment with healthy foods and fun physical activity encourages our children to lead happier, healthier lives.

Christina Shipley, certified massage therapist and exercise enthusiast, agrees, “Group exercise is where it’s at! I do Fit4Mom Fredericksburg Stroller Strides three times a week. Exercising with other moms who are going through similar situations really helps me realize I’m not the only one. We all give each other advice, comfort, support and encouragement. Plus I get to bring my daughter with me! She has even started doing squats and planks with me at home! It’s a great bonding moment through exercise.”

Nikki Ducas is a Fredericksburg mom teaching her two young sons that eating well and physical activity makes them happier and healthier.