Tara Rybicki, a Traverse City-based Community Health Coordinator for Munson Healthcare, shares insights on what behaviors caregivers should be particularly mindful of and ways to be a healthy role model.

We’ve all heard the analogy that kids are sponges—while adorable, this can be terrifying for caregivers. You don’t need to worry about what habits they’re soaking up though once you’ve embraced this simple truth: model the behaviors you want your kids to mimic.

Ways to Be a Healthy Role Model for Your Kids

Be Food Conscious

Take the time to eat healthy food. Popping a frozen pizza in the oven may be the fastest and easiest route, but teaching mindful living and eating principles are most powerful when incorporated in your daily life. 

These mindful eating practices can include talking with your children about food and teaching them about the healthy produce you’re eating—where it comes from and how it nourishes your body.

Also, Tara suggests implementing non-food rewards for kids, such as pencils or jump ropes instead of candies and sweets.

Be Healthy, Together

Take part in your children’s healthy activities and include them in yours, too. “Get the kids involved in the preparation of healthy snacks and meals,” says Tara. “Also, when they’re playing, join in to move your body, and allow the movements to be playful and joyful.”

Limit Screen Time

Don’t just limit your child’s screen time. Model screen time behavior by limiting yours as well. “Limit your own and your child’s screen time to no more than two total hours daily,” Tara suggests.

For times you’re not on a device, you can propose alternate activities such as playing a game of kickball, making a puzzle or cooking healthy new recipes. Getting your family moving, thinking and playing together, is time well spent.

Read Next: Healthy, Fun Ways to Reduce Screen Time for Kids and Adults

Speak Well About Yourself

“Encourage positive body image principles in your kids by using only positive language when discussing your own body,” Tara advises. Rather than talking about the extra skin under your arms, tell your kids how strong your arms are from holding them when they were babies.

In addition, creating an environment where compliments aren’t always revolved around appearance is important—helping to ensure that their self worth isn’t drawn from their looks. Mental health is important.

Written by Courtney Jerome