Rosemary roasted brussels sprouts are seasoned with a mixture of apple, citrus and rosemary. (Rose McAvoy)

To teach kids about healthful eating, show, don’t tell

We are a household of chatty people.

I talk to my kids all the time about all sorts of things. They ask tons of questions ranging from things like, “What if we were our cats and our cats were the people?” to the most oft asked, “Why?” I enjoy answering their questions (the first few times).

The variety of ideas they share through these inquiries gives me a glimpse into how they are experiencing the world.

These questions keep me on my toes, certainly, but as a parent and teacher, I have learned the most powerful lessons I offer my children happen when I show, rather than tell, my kids what I would like them to learn – especially when it comes to healthy habits.

For example, my boys know exercise is an important part of how I keep my body strong and healthy. Of course, I have explained this numerous times, but they also see me prioritizing exercise time in my daily routine.

Recently, while studying the cereal box during breakfast, my youngest yelped, “That’s Mom!” A large picture on the back of the box showed a 30-something woman of fair complexion out for a jog. She looked very little like me, but he has now come to associate Mom with exercise.

Healthy eating is another area where I have found showing to be far more effective than telling.

At dinner time, or any shared meal, they are served some of everything. Sometimes they are delighted with the options, but most of the time there is at least one food on the plate that is deemed offensive. Rather than battle it out, Mike and I tend to make a bigger deal out of how much we are enjoying our own meal.

Sometimes during dinner, we discuss how the various ingredients of our meal came to be on the table. These “teachable moments” don’t usually alter the immediate repulsion, but it helps the food seem more interesting. I often hear the boys repeat the things they have learned back to each other when the ingredient or dish makes an encore appearance.

Even with the moments of recognition, I wondered if these lessons were making a lasting impact on my children. One evening, after running a few errands, my oldest son had a sudden burst of energy and began skipping down the sidewalk. After a few joyful hops, he exclaimed, “Mom, we are all about the healthies, aren’t we?”

I couldn’t help but laugh at his exuberance. As he continued merrily toward our car, my initial mirth became relief and then pride. Not only was he aware of the importance I place on making healthy choices, he feels an ownership over those choices himself.

A moment later I caught up to him at the car, wrapped him in a big hug, and planted a kiss on his head. Yes indeed, we are all about the healthies. His moment of recognition renewed my conviction. I will continue to show my kids how to create healthy habits — even when they don’t seem to be paying attention.

Rosemary roasted brussels sprouts

These brussels sprouts are seasoned with a mixture of sweet apple, bright citrus and aromatic rosemary that feels so right when the weather is chilly. Roasting crisps up the brussels sprout leaves in a way that makes them irresistible to nibbling. Multiply the recipe to make enough for extra nibbles or a holiday meal.

1 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered

1 large (½ pound) fuji or honey crisp apple, peel on, chopped into 1 inch pieces

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil

1 teaspoon minced rosemary (plus a bit more for garnish)

1 teaspoon orange zest

½ teaspoon minced garlic

¼ teaspoon salt

A dash of pepper

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Toss ingredients in a large bowl until well mixed.

Pour the brussels sprouts onto a rimmed baking pan and arrange in an even layer. Roast the sprouts in the hot oven for 30 minutes. Stir once during cooking to get an even color on the sprouts.

Finish with a few more pinches of salt, pepper and rosemary. Serve hot.

The cooking time may be reduced for darker colored pans.

Yields 6 (1⁄2 cup) servings. Approximate nutrition per serving: 65 calories, 3 grams fat, 116 miligrams sodium, 10 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 4 grams sugar, 3 grams protein.

Rose McAvoy is a Lynnwood-based weight loss lifestyle coach and recipe developer. She writes about weight loss at Email her at

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