Healthy Living Starts at Home

Voices of girls across the country rang out loud and clear in the Girl Scout Research Institute study, The New Normal? What Girls Say About Healthy Living. In the study's major findings, girls revealed that healthy living is as much about feeling emotionally secure as it is about eating well, being fit and looking good. "As a result," said Senior Researcher Judy Schoenberg of the Girl Scout Research Institute, "efforts that focus solely on nutrition and physical activity may be missing the mark for many girls."

Embracing Healthy Habits

The relationship between girls and their parents is a cornerstone of healthy living; mothers, especially, play a crucial role in influencing their daughters' lifestyle choices. What, then, do parents need to be aware of that will help their children embrace healthy living? "Girls need adults in their lives to model healthy living attitudes and behaviors," Schoenberg said. Girls also need emotional support, which is something that parents can provide. Supportive comments definitely make a difference with girls; the study reveals that 89 percent of girls report that their mothers make positive comments about their appearances.

Girls need motivation to put their health knowledge to work, so find fun ways to encourage healthy habits. Schoenberg reports that girls, "will reject any effort to make them behave in ways that seem weird or extreme — which might include daily vigorous exercise or deciding not to snack, to swear off junk food, etc."

Motivating Girls

Here are ideas for driving healthy habits home.

Emphasize the Importance of Healthy Eating. More than 60% of teenage girls in The New Normal study say they skip breakfast at least once a week, and nearly 20% skip that important meal every day. Too often, these skipped meals translate into trips to school vending machines with few healthy choices. Keep healthy, easy-to-prepare food on hand so girls can fit breakfast into the typical morning rush.

Get Creative with Recipes. Cook with your children, encouraging them to create healthy meal masterpieces. Not only are you giving them an outlet for their creativity, but your children are more likely to eat something if they have a hand in making it.

Make Physical Activity an Adventure. Invite your children and their friends to join you in a group walk or game, anything that involves lots of moving around, maybe teach each other new dance steps. These activities provide a fun, social opportunity as well as a great workout.

Get Involved in Community Efforts. Find out what's going on in your community related to healthy living. Are there a variety of opportunities for regular physical activity and healthy food choices at school and in your community? If not, get involved and encourage your daughter to become an advocate, too. One way to do this is by participating in the development and implementation of School Wellness Policies, which are mandated in every school district that receives federal school meal funding. You and your daughter can make sure that the unique girl perspective about healthy living is included in those policies.

For more information see The New Normal study.