Sponsored by Veggie Fest
Many parents want to raise children who are aware of the world around them and their impact upon it, but living more consciously with kids can sound challenging, especially when our days already feel full and busy.
The good news is that there are many ways parents and kids can be more conscious. Dr. Rimjhim Duggal Stephens, health and nutrition strategist at Nature’s Path, explains how small changes can have a big impact on our kids.
Do just one task at a time
Multi-tasking is not always the way to go. Instead, doing just one activity at a time allows you complete a task faster. Duggal Stephens notes that it also increases focus and decreases stress.
Help kids complete a task and then clearly move on to the next activity. They will be more conscious of what they are doing and likely do a much better job.
Being conscious about the food we consume can play a major role in living consciously. Explain the health benefits of vegetarianism to kids, which depending on their age can be as simple as explaining that eating more fruits and vegetables instead of meat “makes our bodies feel better.”
For older kids, parents can explain how vegetarian diets lead to lower BMI and cholesterol levels in children, as well as promoting healthy pediatric development. You can also talk with them about animal welfare.
To get started, take The Vegetarian Challenge for tips, recipes and more.
Make choosing health a joyful experience for kids
“Make health a joyful experience. Don’t single it out as something painful or unordinary,” Duggal Stephens says.
When heading outside to play and be active together is viewed as fun, or getting to eat a juicy piece of fruit is a treat, kids start to see the joy in the healthy option. Make it a positive and something you get to do as a family, not something that is a negative. Make it fun whenever you can.
Seek like-minded peers
It’s easier to see the joy in your choices when you are surrounded by others who see it as well. Finding like-minded peers who are also focused on living consciously can make those choices easier for both you and your children.
Events like Veggie Fest in Lisle July 23-24 can be a great way to connect with others who share an interest in and commitment to conscious living. It’s also a great chance to try some delicious new vegetarian dishes and have a ton of fun.
Kids don’t have to meditate for long periods of time to reap the benefits.
“With kids that practice meditation for as little as 5-10 minutes a day, we’re seeing a decrease in anxiety, a better sense of self-esteem and a decrease in aggression,” Duggal Stephens says.
She describes meditation as “a practice where you are silently filling the mind and body. It gives you a way to connect with a deeper sense of self or your soul, as well as stilling your mind, body and external sense.”
Find good role models
LeBron James and other elite athletes meditate. Kristen Bell is a vegetarian. First Lady Michelle Obama is growing vegetables at the White House.
Inspire kids them by showing them people they may respect making conscious choices in their lives. Duggal Stephens says that at Veggie Fest they have posters of the athletes and stars who happened to be vegetarian. She says the idea first came from a group of involved teenagers but it seems to inspire and motivate all ages.
Teach your children about sustainability
“Talk about sustainability and the planet and the resources we use,” Duggal Stephens says, and address ways to conserve those resources. That can be as simple as making sure all the lights are off or addressing how a vegetarian diet saves water. Ask your kids to come up with ways to protect our planet.
Show kids the power of choice
Parents can help children realize that the many decisions they make every day impact their health, and that they have the power to make the good choices that lead to healthy bodies.
“Explain that health is a choice — choosing unhealthy items leads to poorer health over time,” Duggal Stephens says.
One way to empower kids is to give them some control in the kitchen. Engage them in creating the menu. You may be surprised by what they say they want to eat. Also get them involved in helping to prepare their food. Even toddlers can play a part by pulling apart broccoli and tearing lettuce.
Demonstrate your beliefs for your kids
“Model the behavior you want them to replicate,” says Duggal Stephens. Children watch their parents closely, and when you’re making good choices and prioritizing conscious living, they will, too.
Choose organic food
Whether it’s spending time gardening in your backyard or visiting a sustainable organic farm, help your kids learn about the life cycle of plants and show them where their food comes from.
Understanding how their food is grown helps them be more conscious eaters. Doing so helps children “form a tactile bond to where our food comes from and helps a child understand the importance of choosing healthy food and an understanding that food quality is a choice that is theirs,” Duggal Stephens says.
She also notes that choosing organic gives parents peace of mind knowing that they have the purest food available without pesticides and endocrine-disrupting chemicals. She notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that “chronic health implications from both acute and chronic exposure (to pesticides) are emerging.”