Alison Sweeney is a soap opera veteran – in front of the camera as Sami Brady in Days of our Lives for 21 years, and now behind the camera as a director on General Hospital. She is also the host of weight loss reality show The Biggest Loser and continues to act in television movies. Alison is also a spokesperson for Arm & Hammer’s Truly Radiant line of dental products. She and her husband David Sanov live in Los Angeles with their children, Ben, 10 and Megan, six. She shares some of their strategies for raising healthy kids.
My husband and I have similar mindsets for raising our kids. We have really specific values for what’s important to us as parents, such as manners, discipline and being kind to others. It’s important to role model your behaviour. So we talk about why we go to the gym, why we eat healthy, why we pay attention to oral hygiene – having a healthy smile is right up there as well.
We also talk about turning off the TV, turning of the iPad, eating healthy meals, not getting dessert every time and avoiding fast food. When I’m not working, we’ll have dinner together almost every night. Usually we make it together, whether the kids are setting the table or stirring. We all feel a part of what we put on the table. There’s such a pride in that and value in the conversation that goes into it.
My son once expressed discontent over the meal, so I said he could make it the next night! He was like, what? He learned a little humility. Our rule is that you have to try the food, but you don’t have to love everything you eat. You eat it because it’s good for you. This is a not a life based on doing things that are only tasty. I think it’s an important message to send to kids that you can’t live off only one food, and that this is not a restaurant.
There is some flexibility though. My kids don’t like asparagus, for example, and I understand it’s an acquired taste, so I do let them have a say in which vegetables are on the table, but within the realm that I think is appropriate for a parent-child dynamic.
As the host of The Biggest Loser, I’m very conscious of portion control. So I serve small portions, and you don’t get a second helping of the starch if you haven’t finished the vegetables.
I work really hard to never share any insecurities I might feel about my body in front of my daughter. She does not need to hear that, nor does my son for that matter. I believe it’s equally important for him to hear and understand and value women as it is for my daughter, and being a role model is part of it.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, October 2015.