Weight problems don’t always run in families, but it’s likely that the eating and exercise habits we learn as children stay with us into adulthood. That’s why it’s never too early to help your family develop the habits that can help them eat right and control their weight for life.

Food Isn’t A Reward

One of the earliest associations we have with food is comfort — a crying baby receives a bottle and feels happy and contented. Food should be comforting when it satisfies hunger, but it shouldn’t be used as a substitute to satisfy other needs. A cranky toddler may calm down when you hand her a cookie, but a hug or a story might have worked just as well. Consider the message you’re sending your child — When you’re cranky (bored, tired, upset…), eat! Be careful about the messages you send to your kids. Help them learn to eat when they’re hungry, not when they’re not.

A Time and A Place to Dine

We can also learn to associate eating with other activities — like watching TV or going to the movies. After a while, we find that turning on the TV turns on our desire to eat even when we’re not truly hungry. You can help your family break the habit of “automatic” eating by making one simple rule cat only while seated at the dining table. On special occasions, you may want to “bend” your rule, but try healthful treats like fresh fruit rather than the usual “junk food” snacks.

Shopping For Health

You can also help your family by becoming a wise shopper. When shopping, avoid processed, refined, and packaged foods. Besides costing more than fresh foods, processed ones are likely to have preservatives, added salts and sugars, and more calories. Instead of cookies, chips, sodas, and candy, buy fruits, nuts, juice, raisins, and other healthful “snack” foods. If you don’t buy junk food, your family won’t eat it, so why even have it in the house?

Family Exercise

Sound eating habits and healthy food choices can help the entire family eat well and control weight, but eating is only half the story. The other half is activity. By becoming more active you can burn off excess calories before they turn to fat. Encourage family activities like after-dinner walks, Saturday hikes, or other active recreation. Along with healthy eating habits, 20 minutes of vigorous activity three times a week can help you stay fit and trim.

Your Family Will Thank You

Don’t expect a round of applause when you first remove the cookies from your shopping list. It may take your family some time to get used to new, healthier habits. But, in the long run, when they’re free from weight control worries and are leading fuller, healthier lifestyles, they’ll have you to thank -and they will.

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