The earlier we teach our boys to think healthy, the more likely it will be they will grow to become healthy men.
However, in order to be in a position to teach our boys the art of healthy eating and living, we first have to create a life and environment that nourishes it (no pun intended). They need to see we live what we teach. And, what they see - is what they’ll do.
Start off by doing an inventory of your kitchen pantry and getting rid of drinks and foods that are processed. Replace them with healthier foods and water instead of sugary drinks. A simple guide is: anything that has a longer shelf life than we do - goes. You can turn the “pantry inventory and replacement” into a teaching moment with your kids.
As health advocate and wellness expert, Kris Carr says, “If your food is made in a lab, it takes a lab to digest it.”
Next, boys are very inquisitive and curious. Let your boys know why these so called “healthy” foods are healthy, for example, carrots give you “superman eyes”, spinach makes you strong. These explanations are easier for them to understand and visualize than carrots are a good source of Vitamin A and antioxidants, etc. which is something that as kids they may not really care about or understand.
A good vegetable to begin to introduce to your boys are carrots. Kids tend to like carrots as they are sweeter than other vegetables. Then you can move on to introducing spinach, and other leafy greens and vegetables.
Fruits are fun and can be presented to kids in a fun way. For example, putting them on a skewer as a fruit kabob, strawberries covered with dark chocolate and apple slices dipped in almond or peanut butter.
Older boys and men that are used to the Standard American Diet or “SAD” may have a more difficult time switching to a healthier way of eating. The best and more sustainable way is by incorporating instead of taking away. In other words, as they begin incorporating nutrient-filled foods like the good fats, carbs and proteins into their diets, their bodies will begin rejecting or not craving (crowding out) the foods that may not be as nutritious.
Teaching our boys to take care of themselves now may help improve men’s health in the future as we create awareness early on.
However, the mental health of our boys and men is just as important as their physical health. So, how do we instill in our boys healthy habits like the ones I mention above, without creating body image issues that may turn into eating disorders? How do we help them build confidence? What can we do to make sure they don’t feel deprived or made to feel like their “losing out”?
These are thoughts that plague me when I think of my 9-year old grandson. I always feel conflicted because, as a grandmother, I always want to satisfy my grandson’s wants. But - as a health coach, I want to make sure that he’s eating foods that are “good” for him and that throughout the years translate into a “healthy man.”
My daughter has done a wonderful job of raising a disciplined, strong, happy, socially adjusted and very loved 9-year old so I’m very careful when I speak to him about his weight or when suggesting at the store that he go for the berries instead of the cookies.
Although it was difficult for him at first, he now follows my lead. He knows I don’t do fast food so he doesn’t ask for it. When we walk into the grocery store he searches out what he thinks may be healthy instead of immediately gravitating towards the cookie.
But – is it really about NOT eating that cookie? Is it really about creating FEAR, APPREHENSION and ANXIETY around what our kids put in their mouths? NO. It’s about the norm and their north being about berries so that when they eat and enjoy that cookie – one will be enough.