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How to Form and Keep Healthy Habits: Baby Steps to Huge Success


Many of us strive to embrace and keep healthy habits.  And if parents role model embracing and enjoying healthy habits, children are more likely to have those habits also.  If you have room to improve your eating, exercising, sleeping, or other healthy habits, you aren’t alone.  Most of us have areas we could improve upon.  The key is taking small, attainable steps in the right direction to achieve your healthy habits.

What are some baby steps to helping your kids (and possibly you) form and keep healthy habits for the long term?

Role model healthy behaviors

If you, the parent, are still on your journey to adopting a healthier lifestyle, start with small steps.  Simply having and eating a vegetable with your meals is role modeling a healthy behavior.  Using MyPlate is a simple guide to a mealtime makeover meant to promote healthy eating habits, and it can be used with every member of the family so that parents are role modeling healthy eating.

If you don’t exercise regularly, doing some physical activity most days of the week with your children is a positive start to your journey towards healthy habits and to role modeling the importance of exercise.  Your children will most likely want to exercise with you.  Find what you and your kids can enjoy together and do it.  Draw a hop scotch and hop, play red light green light, do some soccer drills…anything to get moving.

Set goals

What healthy habit would you like to acquire? Why?  What can you do to reach this healthy goal?  Set the goals as a family or individually, write them down, and place the goals in a place for everyone to see.  A goal could be as simple as play outside every day or have dinner at the table as a family with no electronics.  Maybe everyone in the house agrees to reduce soda intake to one per day.  You could post that on the refrigerator as a reminder.

My daughter has her own goal.  It’s to stop biting her nails.  Why does she want to stop?  So that she doesn’t put germs from school and elsewhere directly into her mouth.  What are we doing to help to reach this goal?  We keep fingernail polish on her nails because she doesn’t want to bite her polish, and we are praising any sign of nail growth.  The joy on her face when she first reported that she had a “white part” of her nails again was priceless.

Involve the whole family

From meal planning to cooking to exercise planning, get everyone involved.  Everyone can play a part in their own age appropriate way, and being an active participant in planning allows each family member to feel invested in the healthy habit.

Be positive

Keep a positive attitude as you approach your healthy habits.  Rather than saying, “We’ll never get half of our plate to be fruits and vegetables,” say, “I can get fruits and vegetables on each dinner plate” and go from there.  At first, you may have three bites of broccoli and a half of a banana on the plate, but the portion sizes of those foods can grow in time.

Be realistic and forgiving

If your family eats fast food five nights per week, a realistic beginning would be to cut out one or two of those and replace with either a crock pot meal or an easily prepared meal for a week or two, then continue to decrease your family’s fast food consumption.  Planning your meals in advance, shopping ahead of time, and getting the prep work for the meals done early are tremendous time savers for busy weeknights.  And if you slip up and eat fast food more than you intend to in a week, move on with the attitude that you will reach your goal.

Keep communication open

Communicate with your family as you work towards healthier habits.  Do you need to revise or set new goals?  Also, praise family members for their efforts at healthier living with healthier habits.

Find a way to relax!

  • through meditation
  • reading your bible
  • singing favorite songs
  • whatever you find calming

This can help you with resisting mindless eating or habits that are not healthy.

Celebrate success

If you and your family have reached a goal or at least made positive strides towards a goal, what can you do to celebrate?  Maybe a new nail polish for child who has made strides to quit biting her nails, or a sponge ball water fight to continue to encourage and enjoy outside time, or an indoor or outdoor picnic to celebrate and continue to encourage your family to eat and enjoy meals together.

Everyone in the family can reach healthy habit success if the desire and willingness to make change is present.  And if you are already embracing some or many healthy habits, your role modeling of these habits is helping your child to adopt healthy habits too.  Taking small steps towards healthy habits is a way to make big changes become a part of everyday living.

Natalie Monson

I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.

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These end up being habits for life too. So very important to work on these aspects as a young age and yes, there’s nothing quite like setting a personal example.

Shame on you! I go to read an article on healthy eating habits and every paragraph is separated by an ad for McDonalds. I understand the need for sponsorship, but your advertisers should support the premise of your article & the site, not contradict it. Try again!

Thanks for making us aware of that. We totally agree – our ads are served by Google and sometimes they slip through. If we can get a screen shot of it, then we can get them blocked.

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