Among the many jobs parents have one of the most important ones is to set positive examples for their children. Sometimes this is easier said than done. But encouraging and practicing healthy eating is one small, and achievable, step that can be taken to ensure a child’s proper development and sound attention in school.

Here are some tips to jumpstart your kids’ healthy lifestyles as the school year kicks into high gear:

  • Be an example: Children are constantly looking to their parents as role models and guides, even when parents aren’t aware of it. When they see parents making healthy choices in their own diets and lives, it reinforces children’s ideas about right and wrong. If parents eat healthy food, it sets a positive framework for children to make beneficial choices.
  • You’re a teacher,too: Opportunities present themselves on daily basis in terms of teaching children about healthy eating. Next time you are in the grocery store take a minute to explain why you are purchasing the items that you do, or spend some time bonding in the kitchen with your children and talking to them about the meals that you are preparing. Get your children to help you and explain why each ingredient is healthy.
  • Set and keep expectations: Raising kids is not easy and sometimes it seems the older they get, the more difficult they become. However, by setting expectations early on, holding your kids to them, and rewarding positive behavior, expectations can easily become habit. Just a few important ones to keep in mind include: Make a nutritious breakfast a morning requirement. Make milk the dinnertime beverage. And support a wide variety of healthy snacks that come from the five food groups, making sure they are readily available.
  • Enjoy family meals: Spending time, as a family, eating together is a great form of bonding. It is an excellent opportunity to teach children about eating and healthy lifestyles. This is also a great opportunity to introduce kids to new foods and make sure they are making healthy choices at the dinner table as well as at school. Kids who eat family meals are more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables, less likely to snack on unhealthy treats, and less likely to smoke, use marijuana, or use alcohol. Teenagers might resist this idea, but allowing them to bring friends over for dinner, or get involved with the preparation and planning may encourage them to embrace such quality family time.
  • Moderation is the key: No food is outside the bounds of a healthy diet. We all like to indulge in a greasy pizza from a local favorite or fill up a bowl of ice cream from time to time. And our kids are no different. The goal, though, is to establish a pattern of moderation that leans toward healthy eating, but leaves room to eat other less healthy items we all enjoy. This can be a valuable step in preventing fights over food with our children because we allow some flexibility while encouraging a healthy diet. This provides our kids with some sense of control, while limiting unhealthy choices that are available to them.