Ensuring that you and your family are making healthy decisions is an important part of your family's overall well-being. However, with busy schedules and a million and one things to do, preparing healthy foods and finding time to exercise can be challenging. It often seems easier to pick up fast food on the way home from a long day or sit in front of the television after work, but making small decisions to steer your family in a healthy direction can make a big difference in the long run, and all it takes is a little healthy food and some activity!
While children, even yours, may be notorious for being picky eaters, many of their eating and snacking habits can be influenced by you. Healthy eating habits can stick with your children for the rest of their lives, so give them a great start by making healthy food choices for everyone under your roof. Following a few simple tips can make all the difference!
- Stock healthy food. Leave the junk food at the grocery store! Instead, fill your pantry and refrigerator with healthy options, like fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean proteins and whole grain breads and pastas. Make snack-size portions available and easy to grab and turn healthy snacks into something fun. Add peanut butter to apple slices and make low-fat popcorn to replace the chips.
- Avoid/discourage "just because" eating. Eat when you're hungry; it's as simple as that! Try not to eat just because you're bored, and trust your children to know their own bodies. They'll definitely let you know when they're hungry.
- Encourage variety. Although your children may not be around you all day, do your best to know what they're eating. Ensure that your family eats a variety of healthy foods every day. For more information on what, and how much, your family should be eating on a daily basis, explore the food groups at ChooseMyPlate.gov.
- Involve the family. Whenever possible, bring your children along when you grocery shop. Teach them to read food labels for information, like serving sizes and unhealthy indicators, like high sodium, sugar, cholesterol and fat, especially trans fat. Make meal planning a family affair by asking for everyone's input, and pass on healthy cooking tips to your children.
- Drink water. Hydration is an important part of any healthy lifestyle. While sugary drinks, like sodas and juices, might seem more appealing, nothing beats a refreshing, rehydrating, calorie-free glass of water.
- Be willing to break "the rules." It's ok to enjoy special treats as a family. Making cookies together or going out for ice cream after a day at the park are fun, family activities and should be enjoyed. Making sure you do these things in moderation is the key.
Exercising as a family
By eating well, you and your family are halfway to the goal of a healthy lifestyle. You may find the second component to this healthy lifestyle is a bit more challenging with everyone's busy schedules, but that is all the more reason to work together. Support each other and enjoy some family fitness!
Whether you're just starting out or your family is looking for a new and exciting way to rebuild interest in exercise, consider a few of these family-friendly suggestions.
- Start together, sweat together. It can be intimidating to join a gym or begin a new activity alone, so why not do it as a family? Decide on something that everyone will enjoy and designate some time each week to break a sweat together. Whether it's swimming, an hour in the gym, a charity walk or competitive run, an organized sport or an exercise class, do it together so you don't have the excuse of not wanting to go alone.
- Take walks. Everyone in the family can benefit from a walk. Even families with young babies can take a brisk walk with the stroller or wagon in tow. Creating the habit early of taking daily walks will make it easier to stick with it as your children grow.
- Compete. A little friendly competition can be a great motivator. Hold a push-up or sit-up competition, race each other or keep track of every family member's fitness accomplishments over time. Having a goal in mind, and a friendly push to succeed, may be the best way to encourage exercise or perseverance in some of your family members.
- Work together. Chores may be something that your children dread but, by getting everyone involved, tasks are less intimidating. As a bonus, by getting everyone up and moving, the cleaning to-do list shrinks while your family gets going.
The most important thing to remember as you begin or continue your healthy journey is that your family is unique. You know best what will work for your family and what won't. Start somewhere. Find something that works with your family and improve from there. If you stick with healthy food choices and an active lifestyle you'll see and feel results that you can be proud of!