No, I don’t mean that you should play with your food, make a mess, or fill up on goldfish, but I DO believe that there is a lot we can learn from the eating habits of healthy little kids! The other day I was babysitting a little girl from my church and it hit me… what if I adults more like her? She eats cookies and goodies, but turns her head away as soon as she’s had her fill. Think about it, children know how to listen to their bodies much better than adults do.
When I was a Senior in High School I taught nutrition lessons to children at a local elementary school as a part of my Senior Project. While I was the one teaching the lessons, I can honestly say that I learned a lot from those kids! Although (nationally) childhood obesity is on the rise, at the school where I taught, about 95% of the children were at a healthy weight. They were all pretty active, that’s for sure! And judging from our discussion and the answers to my questions, they seemed to maintain a very balanced diet.
Here are 6 things ‘healthy kids’ do:
1. Kids stop eating when they are full. Honestly, I think this is one of the biggest lessons adults can learn from the little ones. Kids always seem to stop eating when they’ve satisfied their appetite… OR as soon as something more ‘fun’ starts happening! They push their plates away when they’ve had their fill. Adults, on the other hand, often find to find it difficult to resist seconds… no matter what else is going on!
2. Kids snack regularly. Say what you will about having 3 meals a day or 6, the point is that kids eat little portions regularly. This keeps their metabolism humming and their energy up! Also, their snacks are often healthy ones. Many moms and dads these days stock shelves and fridges with nutritious options. Why not nourish yourself the way you would a child? A small plate of carrots and hummus or peanut butter and crackers in the afternoon is a great way to keep your energy up and prevent a late night hunger!
3. Kids eat healthy! Okay, so this may not inherently be up to the child, but lots of school-aged children eat healthy foods on a regular basis. Parents can whip up a quick and hearty bowl of oatmeal or yogurt for breakfast, a banana and peanut butter sammie for lunch, cheese and crackers for snack time, popcorn or fruit after school, and chicken and steamed veggies for dinner. It seems that kids’ little tummies are always being filled with light, nourishing foods, thanks to the awareness of ‘health savvy’ parents!
4. Kids eat small portions. In addition to eating healthy foods throughout the day, children eat much smaller portions than adults. Sure, adults can afford to eat more calories than a child, but we could learn a thing or two from the size of “kids meals” as opposed to the “value meals” we see advertised. We could satisfy our appetites with MUCH smaller portions.
5. Kids don’t feel guilty about treats. This is one of the biggest things I’ve noticed about a lot of little kids. They won’t pass up a cookie or a piece of chocolate, but they also don’t over eat them. And they NEVER seem to walk around ‘punishing’ themselves for that moment of indulgence! They don’t feel guilty at all! As adults, this is one of the biggest things we must learn. Moderation is the key when it comes to weight maintenance, and kids seem to be experts at it!
6. Kids are active. Okay, this doesn’t exactly qualify as an eating habit, but it still falls under the category of health. Think about how active kids are. My little cousins eat A LOT of food (more than I would recommend) but they keep their weight down because they are constantly moving… like CONSTANTLY. They always want to hide and seek, chase, race and play tag… They want to ‘be first’ and ‘beat you’… They want to build and create and let their imaginations run wild! How can you do all that and not use up a ton of calories!!? (It sounds kinda fun, doesn’t it?)
Soooo, these are some of the healthy eating habits I’ve learned from children. Healthy kids have great habits! They listen to their bodies, they aren’t afraid to treat themselves, and they make being active… FUN!
How about you? Have you learned any ‘healthy habits’ from children?!