The Importance of Healthy Eating and Exercise Habits for Kids

“You are what you eat,” “the greatest wealth is health,” and “healthy body, healthy life” are some common sayings many of us have likely heard in our lifetimes, touting the benefits of taking care of ourselves. One of the best things we can impart on our kids’ health and wellness outlook is to practice what we preach. As parents, showing our children that we care about our own health and what kinds of food we put into our bodies can be a fundamental first step in teaching them about good habits.

Teaching Children to Eat Well. 

In addition to leading by example, there are ways to teach our children good eating habits by following some helpful tips. An article in listed some ideas that make sense and can be helpful if you find your child’s diet is challenging to maintain.

  • Plan your meals. When pulling together your Sunday night grocery list or planning meals for the week, shop for enough meals and snacks to keep your little ones full. Growing kids likely eat 3 meals daily with a few snacks in between! Encourage healthy food and a lot of fluids during the day, putting the unhealthy sodas and chips on shelves that are out of your child’s reach (or don’t buy those items at all). It’s a great idea to have a cooler in the car with healthy snacks like carrots and cheese sticks when out and about running errands.
  • Keep it simple. You can find many recipes online for healthy soups, whole-grain pasta dishes, and 5-ingredient meals that include a lean protein and side vegetables. If you enjoy spicier fare and you suspect your kids won’t like it, leave the spice to the side and add later. Your kids may not love everything you cook, but eventually they will grow to like your meal variations and will imitate their likes and dislikes based on what you’re eating. The more you point out “eat your veggies” the more your child will likely protest by not eating. Sometimes it’s best to ignore them and keep in mind your child will eat when he/she is hungry.
  • Try using dips with veggies. Ranch dressing can be a lifesaver when trying to get children to eat vegetables. Adding a little cheese to broccoli is another option. Putting hummus and salsa dips on the table can also work when trying to incorporate a balanced diet. When you include your children in the discussion about what they like to eat and what they don’t prefer, it can be very helpful in their overall attitude about trying new things. It may be as simple as offering french green beans over cut green beans for dinner one night because you let them decide!

Cutting back on junk food in the house and having healthier options can really make a big difference in what your kids reach for in the pantry. Also, if your child is old enough to help out in the kitchen, let them assist in the cooking duties. It’s not only beneficial for them to be a part of process, but you’re making fond memories, too.

Teaching Children to Exercise.

If your favorite weekend activity is watching movies and lying around the house, your children will learn those same habits and begin to accept an inactive lifestyle for themselves. Do you rely on a computer and iPad for most of your entertainment? It’s possible your kids will too. 

  • Exercise together. One of the best ways to get your kids to exercise is by doing activities together. Do you love to golf? Teach your child how to play. Is tennis your favorite sport? Buy your son or daughter a racquet and schedule a lesson.
  • Exercise at least 60 minutes/day. After school, go on a long walk with the family or create a home gym. If your child is younger, look for fun videos that teach yoga and/or dance. Kicking a soccer ball, blowing bubbles, or chasing after butterflies are all forms of exercise that you can do with your kids.  
  • Help them find their passion. What does your child like to do? If they like being outside and playing in the dirt, look at starting a garden together. Do they love swimming? Sign up for a class. You’ll find if your child loves doing something, they will not only continue with it but will most likely do that activity very well.

Allowing your child to have a treat once in a while and spend a Saturday in front of the TV watching cartoons is also important. It’s okay to offer ice cream after a long week at school or turn the other cheek when your kids are acting lazy, just wanting to play inside the house all day in their PJs. As long as your overall wellness plan incorporates healthy food and exercise most of the time, you’re teaching your children some of the many ways to be inherently healthy. 

Dr. Shaw and Dr. Kellow knows that healthy habits start young and can help answer any questions you may have about your child’s exercise and diet habits. If you have questions or concerns, please call us at 618-235-2311 or visit us online at You can also email us at