Moms invest a large amount of time in taking care of their families, but research shows that kids can benefit when moms take time to focus on their own well-being, too.
In a long-term, population-based study, researchers gathered information from more than 100,000 women ages 25-42, along with almost 25,000 of their children. Every few years, participants responded to questionnaires related to their diet history, physical activity, and other health- and lifestyle-related topics. The research participants also answered questions related to their children’s growth, development, and health habits.
The study revealed that the healthier choices mothers made in their own lives, the more likely their children were to maintain a healthy body weight over the course of the study. The relationship between a mother’s lifestyle choices and their children’s body weight remained significant even after the researchers adjusted for factors known to increase risk for excess weight gain in kids, such as time spent in front of a screen.
Researchers found that the more healthful choices moms made in their own lives, the more likely their children were to maintain a healthy weight. However, some lifestyle choices stood out more than others for benefits to both moms and kids. Based on observations from this research study, here are three tips to benefit both healthy moms and healthy kids:
1. Focus on Physical Activity
Physical activity guidelines recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous physical activity. Mothers who met physical-activity recommendations were more likely to have healthy-weight children compared to mothers who exercised less than the minimum recommended levels.
A great way to get yourself and your children engaged in physical activity is to find an activity that the family loves and can enjoy together. Some suggestions include going to the park to play in the evening, finding a sport the entire family can play together, or just turning up the music at home for a dance party.
2. Eat Breakfast Every Day
Breakfast is often called the most important meal of the day and for good reason. Research consistently shows a strong association between starting your day with breakfast and positive health outcomes such as maintaining a healthy weight.
In the current study, eating breakfast was one of the mothers’ positive health habits that was linked with healthy patterns of growth among their children. When moms reported eating breakfast every day, kids were more likely to maintain a healthy weight than when moms reported skipping breakfast.
For many families, mornings are the most hectic part of the day. Make your morning rush more manageable by stocking your kitchen with ready-to-eat and easy-to-prepare foods you can grab when you are on the go, such as fresh fruit, nutrition shakes, nutrition bars, or yogurt cups.
3. Find a Healthy Balance With Food
One surprising finding from this study is that mothers who had the healthiest diets were no more likely than other moms to have healthy-weight children at the end of the study. When the researchers analyzed the mother’s diet quality separately from other health habits, the moms’ diet quality didn’t have an independent effect on their children’s weight. Teaching healthful eating habits at home is clearly important, but these results suggest that there is no need to stress about becoming a model of “perfect” eating to support your family’s health.
A relaxed approach that includes healthful food choices, along with an occasional indulgence, can be one way to care for your own well-being while modeling a balanced attitude toward food.
Many moms spend a big part of their day looking after the needs of others. The results of this study show that making time to care for your own well-being through healthy lifestyle choices can benefit your family’s health as much as your own.
Dhana K, Haines J, Liu G, Zhang C, Wang X, Field AE, Chavarro J, Sun Q. Association between maternal adherence to healthy lifestyle practices and risk of obesity in offspring: results from two prospective cohort studies of mother-child pairs in the United States. BMJ. 2018;362:k2486. doi:10.1136/bmj.k2486.