Handing Down Healthy Habits to My Teenage Daughter

Teaching these guys to be the best they can be!Tis' the season for the college kids (maybe yours included) to come home for the summer.  I usually get a lot of calls from mom's at this time of year, looking to help their daughters get back on track and undo any minor damage that was done from their first or second year of independence, dorm living and cafeteria food.

My kids have yet to start college (in a few short years) but I applaud these parents because I know that one of my goals is to set my daughter up as best as possible with eating right and taking care of themselves - physically and emotionally.  Not that I don't think of my boys, but there is something about my daughter that feels a bit more vulnerable to outside influences (although speak to me when I am sending my boy/girl twins off to college on the first day!)  Here's my plan for success:

Set Great Examples. My kids are on to me.  If I tell them not to eat sweets while I am hiding cookies in my cabinet what kind of example am I setting for them?  As my daughter gets older I see the vital importance of creating good habits now, even if it is small baby steps.  I want to feel good as an adult and I want her to feel her best as a teenager. I can't get away with the "do as I say, not as I do" motto anymore.

Be Good Enough. I am not expecting perfection from my daughter, nor am I expecting it from myself.  We live in a fast paced, distracted, high pressure world. I want her to know that she is good enough, no matter where she is with her weight, her exercise or anything else that might secretly concern me at times. She is getting old enough to take responsibility for her body and I applaud her independence. Besides, perfection is a term that simply does not exist in my house. Trust me, you will never achieve it.

Set Boundaries. I want my daughter to feel good enough about herself that she is able to set boundaries and say no to other people.  It is something that I am working on with myself - saying yes when I really mean no.  And I am talking about everything,  even the cookies that need to be made for the bake sale when you really don't have time.  My time is precious.  I want my daughter to know how to put herself first.

Exercise. Moving feels good and we live in an age where it is becoming easier and easier to not have to do it.  I have also learned that to kill myself in boot camp classes where I am almost throwing up only makes me resentful of exercise.  I choose now to pick only things that I love to do and I want my daughter to know the importance of that too.

Eat Well/Cook More. This one is near and dear to my heart, as I know first hand how good I can feel when I am eating my very best.  I know for girls in college, cooking is not really an option for the first year or two, but it is my top priority to get my daughter (and all my kids for that matter) very comfortable with cooking before leaving my nest.  I also want them to know how to make the best food choices in certain situations, like the dorm cafeteria.  My kids help me in the kitchen on a daily basis with chopping, cooking and clean up. They will have a repertoire of easy healthy recipes to take with them to college that will set them up for life.

Like I said, my daughter is still young, but I want her walking into college on her first day, armed with healthy habits that she can use for life.  No matter how old your children are the time to start is now.

Now I would love to hear from you.  In what ways are you laying down the foundation for healthy habits with your kids?  Click HERE to keep the conversation going or in the comments below!

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Heather Carey, M.S.

Culinary Nutritionist

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