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Creating a heritage of good health

When I was 8 my mother, Shannon, was a single mother of 5 children. She needed an out and found running to be the release she needed. She ran every day, but didn't always have the means or resources for a sitter every morning, so she did the next best thing. She took us with her. We would get up at or before dawn Monday through Saturday, get our bikes out and like little ducks followed our mother as she ran. She outfitted us all with headphones and tape players and a fanny pack of Disney stories on tape. It became a magical time for us. Fresh air, exercise, and the sunrise every day.

I still covet early morning walks and exercise when I can get them. Along with good exercise she took time to explain the differences in foods and how they impact our health. Her positive example instilled in her children the need for good health at a young age, this need still exists in me 24 years later. I am thankful for that.

The world's health is spiraling downward at an alarming rate:

WHO (World Health Organization) estimates Obesity rates are rising world wide. It is estimated that half of the U.S. could be obese by 2030. The study also concluded, "Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. The prevalence has increased at an alarming rate. Globally, in 2010, the number of overweight children under the age of five, is estimated to be over 42 million."

  • Children and adults who are obese, or overweight, have an increased risk for disease including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
  • High calorie foods with excessive amounts of sugars and fats have become staples in many families diets.
  • Many families lifestyles have become more sedentary.
These statistics may be alarming, but should serve as a warning to the world.

Healthy Eating by Erin

Who has kids cheering for brussel sprouts? Whining for salad? Or clamoring for green beans? I do! I love to introduce interesting, fun, and exciting new vegetables to our dinner table every once in a while. We may not love all of them, but our variety has increased my children's love of healthy food.

Here are some ideas to help:

Mystery vegetable night. Once a week, or month, introduce a new mystery vegetable. Have one child help you pick this mysterious health food and they'll be more willing to eat it. Shannon had vegetable parties. She created a party atmosphere and introduced all the weirdest vegetables possible like artichokes dipped in real butter.

Menu planning. Get your kids involved in the weekly menu, give them guidelines as to how many vegetables, proteins, etc. Children love making decisions for the family and are more enthusiastic about meals as a result.

Grow your own. There is nothing as magical as planting a seed and watching it turn into a vegetable. My children are more willing to try something they helped create.

We want the best for our families, especially our children. It is our job as parents to teach our children about the benefits of good health, just as my mother did.

Shannon's Advice:

Be what you want your children to be. You can't criticize your children for being lazy if you are perched on the couch yelling at them to do something. If you want your children to be healthy and active — be healthy and active. It will be a natural way of life in your home. Lead by example.

Enjoy good food. Avoid eating disorders by not focusing on weight. Instead, focus on increasing your families information about good food and its benefits. Explore and learn together. Find out if carrots really do help your eyes, or if green beans are good for your skin and complexion. Make it fun and play with a little science on the way.

Avoid fast food pit falls. Fast food is fun and has its place, but remember you are investing in your health. You can spend a little more on vegetables and healthy foods or on medical bills. You are what you eat and so are your children.

Keep a snack area. I always kept a healthy snack area in the kitchen that the kids could reach. It had things like apples, whole wheat crackers and peanut butter in reach.

Plan fun family activities. Plan hikes, kayaking, swimming, surfing and have fun! You don't have to be good at it to enjoy it. Expose your children to a variety of activities and sports. Enjoy them together. My youngest daughter and I signed up for free surf lessons offered locally with one of her friends. It was a day to remember. I was terrible at it. She doesn't remember that because she was great at it.

Practice good self care. There is nothing selfish about good self care. We want to live to a ripe old age and be as independent as possible. This requires good health. What do we want for our children? Do we want them to take care of themselves? There is an old saying we live by, "You're actions are shouting so loud I can't hear what you are saying."

Commit to good self-care and be the change you want to see in your children.



Shannon and Erin are a mother and daughter with lots of children and Utah and Oregon roots.

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