Nine Things I Hope My Children Know About Their Health Before They Leave My House

By Kris Ann Valdez

As parents, it’s a sobering thought that our children will leave home one day—solely responsible for feeding themselves, managing their stress levels, and moving their bodies.

What do we want our children to know about their health before they move out?

Registered dietician, nutritionist, and co-founder of Feeding Littles, Megan McNamee, MPH, RDN, is passionate about helping families raise intuitive eaters who embrace a diverse range of foods while understanding how to nourish their bodies. She also specializes in eating order prevention.

The best thing we can do for our kids to teach them about health is to model a positive relationship with diet and exercise ourselves, according to Megan.

“Our kids are always listening and watching,” Megan says. “Modeling for our kids a healthy relationship with food makes a big difference. One of the ways we do this is by eating together and showing them that we eat a variety of foods.”

We also teach them to trust their intuition when they are full or need more. Megan and her co-founder Judy Delaware, OTR/L, CLC, certified feeding therapist, teach these tips and so much more in their foundational eating courses.

As for exercising, Megan says, “They’re soaking up what we say about our bodies and learning how to feel about their own bodies through us. We do not have to ‘atone’ for the food we eat with punishing movement because that’s not what it’s about—exercise benefits our mental and spiritual health. It is so much more powerful and impactful than weight and appearance.”

Remember, exercise is a privilege too—one we might not always be afforded in life. The idea “what’s your excuse?” in diet culture is one of the most toxic that we should avoid bringing into our homes.

Instead, we want our kids to look at exercise as honoring their bodies, not a means to an end. As important as it is for children to see their parents and caregivers enjoying the exercise they do, just as important is that they see them resting and listening to their bodies.

Below, Megan shares nine of the most important things she wants her children to believe about their health before they leave home:

1). Your health and body size are influenced by SO many factors, not just what you eat or how you move your body. Health and weight are complicated and are not always in your control. We can celebrate the fact that all bodies are different, and all bodies are GOOD.

2). Find foods that feel good AND taste good to you. Yes, food is nutrition, but it’s also satisfaction, celebration, culture and tradition.

3). I hope you discover exercise that you enjoy. I also hope you know that there may be times in your life when exercise is not a priority, and that’s okay too.

4). Pears, peaches and prunes might help you poop, and fruits and veggies help your body fight germs.

5). Stress can have more impact on your health than anything and I will continue to help you learn how to manage it. With that in mind, I do not expect you to be perfect. Please do not put that pressure on yourself.

6). Three things that can make a huge difference in how you feel every day: staying hydrated, sleeping well, and getting some fresh air.

7). It’s okay to ask for seconds. It’s okay to leave food on your plate. Only you know how much is the right amount to eat, and that will change meal to meal.

8). Rest is not just for when you’re sick and it doesn’t need to be earned.

9). If something doesn’t feel right with your mental, spiritual, or physical health, trust your instincts, seek help, and call your mama. You do not have to suffer alone.

To sum it up, Megan says, she wants her children “to eat, move their body, and take care of themselves by how it makes them FEEL, not by how it makes them look. And I hope they will always feel comfortable talking to me or a trusted professional if something doesn’t feel right.”

Creating a list for your own family can reveal a lot about your familial values, and help set goals, like teaching kids to grocery shop or cook a meal by themselves.

As parents and caregivers, most of us have been negatively impacted by diet culture, but making a cognitive shift towards a more positive approach is possible. Raising healthy, well-adjusted children is the hope of every parent—and it starts with our own relationship with health and wellness.