Set These House Rules to Ensure Healthy Habits

Do you feel like your family's eating habits are unhealthy and out-of-control? Do you worry that you are allowing these bad habits to become a part of your children's lives and that they'll grow up accustomed to eating in a way that can lead to weight gain and medical complications? Many parents think about these things but don't know what to do about it. To many it seems like a problem too large to tackle, especially if the kids are already school-aged. The solution really is as simple as setting a few rules. I'm guessing you have rules set for other things at your house--clean your room, take out the trash, feed the dog, etc. Eating is no different. You must set rules and stick with them.

Rule #1 - Have set times for eating. Continuous grazing throughout the day is not a healthy pattern. It's hard to keep up with the amount you are eating if you eat "whenever you feel like it." You become accustomed to eating all the time at random, and this is a definite set-up for weight gain. You must be intentional when it comes to eating. Eat meals and snacks at regular times each day. Make sure you and your family get nutritious foods to eat each time so that it keeps you full until the next eating time. Let your children know that they are not allowed to go to the pantry or refrigerator except at snack times. And even then the parent should monitor what they children get.

Rule #2 - Prepare one meal for the family. Parents should not be short-order cooks and prepare multiple dishes for each family member. Prepare one family-friendly meal and insist that everyone partake. Every meal may not be everyone's favorite, but if you rotate the favorites they all get what they love often. It is also important that they eat a good variety in their diet, so they shouldn't have the same few dishes at every meal. The goal is also for them to enjoy the meal, so make sure everyone has at least one thing on their plate they really like.

Rule #3 - Try new things. Try to add a new vegetable, fruit or whole-grain item to each meal. The only way people (kids and adults alike) will improve their palate is to try new things. Don't expect to like them all the first few times. It may take many times before the new taste is likable, but don't give up. Over time you will find that your taste buds will adjust, and you'll begin to like new things. One thing is for sure. It is pretty much a guarantee that if you never try it you'll never like it. As you set these rules, don't forget to be a role model. You can't expect your children to do things that you don't do yourself. As they watch you they will be much more likely to follow. Think of the benefits it will bring for you all--easy weight control, more energy, confidence and self-esteem, all essential ingredients for a healthier, happier family. Keep in mind that after a while the rules aren't difficult to keep in place because they've become habits. A habit, by definition, is an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary. And that's the goal!