By: Candice Imwalle

It’s the time of year we make resolutions to improve our lives. And when you make positive changes in your own life, you improve the lives of your children as well. That’s because you ultimately control what you and your children eat. They look to you for help and guidance.

Why not use this year’s resolutions as a time to agree, as a family, to improve your eating with some dietary “best practices” for 2016.

Consider focusing on these three resolutions:

1. Follow the 80/20 Rule
It’s unrealistic to expect diet perfection 100 percent of the time. For both children and adults, there needs to be “wiggle room.” In our family we follow the 80/20 rule. For 80 percent of the time we make extremely healthy food choices. This leaves room for small desserts, a mac n’ cheese snack (my daughter’s favorite), a slice of pizza, etc.

When I read my book, Sir Morgan and the Kingdom of Horrible Food, to children at schools, I tell them that for every four healthy things they eat, they can have one, and only one, small fun treat. (By the way, a big bag of chips or candy does not count as one, just so we’re clear!) This simple equation helps kids understand how to make small changes in their daily food choices.

You don’t have to start at 80/20. If this seems overwhelming, start where you think you can be most successful. For example, set a goal as a family to eat healthy 50 percent of the time and then work your way up. You’ll be surprised at how much good food you choose when you’re really thinking about it. Hold each other accountable and set small, non-food rewards for meeting the goals, such as a movie night or a play date for your children.

2. Read Food Labels
In your quest to eat healthier, it’s important to teach your children to read food labels. What are you looking for? First, check for the serving size so you know how many servings you’re eating. Remember, that big bag of chips or candy is more than one serving.

Next, look for the amount of sugar in each serving. Sucrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, maple syrup and fructose are all names for added sugars.

It is unbelievable how much “hidden sugar” is in foods. Show your children that most processed foods are filled with unnecessary sugar. Teach them to read labels and look for the grams of sugar – there are four grams in every teaspoon.

3. Decrease Sugar Intake
The American Heart Association recommends that men eat no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar and women no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day. Preteens and teens can have anywhere from 5–8 teaspoons per day. Preschoolers and school-aged children? They only get 3–4 teaspoons per day.

I’m willing to bet everyone in your family is eating a lot more than the recommended amount. If you’re like most people, you’re eating upwards of three times the recommended daily allowance of added sugar daily.

Encourage your children to pay attention to and decrease the amount of sugar they eat. It may even be beneficial to show them an example of where unnecessary sugar was added.

For instance, if you look at the different options for yogurt, you will notice the most kid-friendly packaging has the most sugar. Teach your children to read the label versus simply choosing the most colorful packaging with cartoons on the outside.

In my full-time job, I sell medical devices to physicians and hospitals for people with coronary & peripheral vascular disease, a condition where fatty deposits build up in arterial walls. I’ve seen too many people ignore the dangers of unhealthy eating until it’s too late. The great news is even the simplest changes can make a big difference in your and your children’s overall health.

As you move forward in your journey toward healthy eating, teach your children the acronym FAB. It stands for Focus, Ask, Believe.
• Focus on eating healthy.
• Ask parents and teachers for guidance.
• Believe that creating healthy habits NOW is vitally important for a lifetime of good health.

Happy New Year!

As a working mother with two small children, Candice Imwalle understands the challenge of incorporating healthy eating into daily life. The lack of options for children’s books about healthy eating motivated Imwalle and her two children, Isabella and Cameron, to write their own book – Sir Morgan and the Kingdom of Horrible Food. This book provides the opportunity for parents to talk with their children about making healthy food decisions and the impact these choices can have on a person’s health, body and the way they feel. To learn more about Candice or to order the book, visit www.candiceimwalle.com.

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