The challenges of being a new parent are innumerable, as any mother or father can attest to. In addition to giving unconditional love and support to our kids, our job as a parent is to be a teacher, a protector, a provider, and of course, a good role model.

It's not easy to succeed at every goal, because contrary to what our children may think, we are not perfect. Despite our best efforts, the rigors of being a parent can be overwhelming, and things end up falling by the wayside. One area where this commonly occurs is leading a healthy lifestyle.

Eating healthy meals and exercising regularly are challenging under any circumstance, but they're that much more difficult for a parent. In addition to the demands on our time, most of us are just plain exhausted. In fact, in a recent study, it was found that many parents, despite the fact they know better, often opted for foods that were less healthy but more convenient. The study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found this to be the case regardless of their eating habits prior to parenthood.

This sends a mixed message to our kids — a slippery slope because, let's face it, convenience foods are not only convenient, but they usually taste good.

Despite the demands on our time, there are certain steps parents can take to help them to set good examples for their children, and be the leaders in healthy living.

1. Start Early

Kids don't know that healthy foods aren't as tasty as junk food; they have to be taught. Early on in their lives is the best time to set new precedents.

2. Be Organized

Convenience foods are time savers, no doubt, but with a little thought and planning, you can have healthy snacks ready the day before and store them in the fridge. Also, fresh fruit takes minimal preparation.

3. Don't Strive to Be Popular

It's hard for anybody to be popular all the time. Sometimes the tough decisions we make don't endear us to our kids, but that's because we're parents first, then friends. Set proper limits.

4. Limit Your Own Screen Time

It's hard for parents to justify limiting child screen time if Mom and Dad spend all day in front of the TV. Set the proper example for your kids by at least waiting until they are in bed.

5. Join the Fun

Kids love to play with mom and dad. In addition to the priceless bonding time, parents can get some exercise, feel better, and maybe even have some fun — it's been known to happen.

6. Encourage Being Active

When the opportunity presents itself, take the stairs and walk or ride your bikes. You'll enjoy the journey and spend quality time with your kids.

7. Surround Yourself With Like-Minded People

We often do what those around us are doing, so being with others who want to eat healthy and exercise will inspire us and our children to do the same.

In the end, parents can only do the best that they can, but it doesn't take a monumental effort to lead a healthier lifestyle, even with colder weather looming on the horizon. All it takes is a little inspiration and motivation mixed in with a bit of common sense. Give them the first steps, the next will come much easier, and before you know it, your children will be well on their way to a healthier life.

Thanks, of course, to your leadership.

If you have questions or concerns about your child's diet, talk to your pediatrician or family physician. For more information about healthy eating, visit the website for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).