How many times have you thought to yourself: It would be so much easier to ditch this unhealthy habit if only I’d never started it in the first place. Because, let’s face it, changing our habits isn’t always easy to do.
So, when is the best time to start up a healthy habit? The answer is quite simple— when we’re young. Before we become addicted to sugar. Before we’re able to hit up the local drive-thru whenever we want. Before we get used to sitting in front of a screen for hours every day.
Yesterday, October 7, was Child Health Day in the United States—a day that encourages us to consider the importance of protecting and developing children’s health. The ultimate gift we can give our children is good health, along with the invaluable habits that make it possible.
In his 1962 article “Fluoridation of Water Supplies,” first published in the Medical Journal of Australia, author A.J. Cahill issues this warning:
Sound nutrition is the only sure and safe way to provide our children with sound teeth and sound health for the rest of their lives. All mothers must now learn to feed their families on a well-balanced, vitamin-rich diet in order to achieve the best results. They must stop buying devitalized white bread and over-refined white sugar—those two curses of our modern civilization—and replace them with nourishing, whole-meal bread and delicious, health-giving honey.
The only thing I would add to Cahill’s comment—now that we’re well past the 1960s—is that fathers bear the same responsibility as mothers. I know my husband does his fair share of cooking at our house, and he also understands the basics of nutrition, which is equally important. We have only sons, and seeing their dad cook sends them the message that it’s everyone’s responsibility to learn how to feed themselves and their loved ones. By this point, our sons also understand that cooking at home is one of the most important habits to adopt for your overall health.
Starting with the breastfeeding years (ideally), our children depend on us completely to provide them with a solid foundation of healthy habits. And as they grow, kids can start helping out with simple tasks in the kitchen. Teach your child to be your #1 chopper of cucumbers, for example. Let them help plan the weekly menu, and when they’re old enough, include a meal they can learn to cook entirely on their own. Allow them to write the shopping list as you guide them through figuring out what you need and what you already have. And be sure to take them shopping with you.
Each of these are crucial steps to building healthy habits from the start. By learning these lessons on nutrition and nourishing themselves at a young age, they’re bound to be healthier for life.
If, by chance, you’ve developed a few less healthy habits (you’ll find no judgement passed from me), some of the tips in these SRP blog posts may help you get back on track:
- “How to Talk to Your Teen About Junk Food.” I wrote this post to offer suggestions on what to do when your kid(s) start getting the financial means and independent mobility to make more of their own food choices.
- “How to Cure Picky Eaters, Part One and Part Two.” In this two-part series, Janette Coleman helps parents who struggle with picky eaters by offering practical and family-friendly ideas on how to shift eating habits.
- “How Do I Find Real Food While Traveling?” If traveling leads to you ditching your healthy eating habits, check out a few of these tips from Heather Wilkinson for eating real food on the road.