Staying Healthy as a FamilyStateman Journal Living Well January 2015
As we celebrate the beginning of another new year, many of our thoughts turn to what we can do to keep ourselves, and our families, healthy. Below are ten tips to a healthier family lifestyle.
1. It Takes Teamwork
It takes more than one person to make a lasting change in a household. Everyone in the family must commit to a strategy for good health. Talk to your kids about the importance of staying active and making smart food choices. Set an example for them by doing those things, yourself.
2. Smart Shopping
Healthy eating begins with nutritious food purchases. Often, junk food is a spontaneous buy. It can be tempting to give in when children beg for treats at the grocery store—or even when your own cravings nudge you towards potato chips or your favorite ice cream—but resist the urge. Try to shop after a meal so your hungry stomach is not making decisions for you. Write a list before you go, and stick to it.
3. Don’t Skip Meals or Snacks
It seems to make sense that losing weight would require eating less. However, this is not necessarily the case. If you skip meals or snacks and spend much of your day hungry, your brain starts sending the message to your body that you are hungry, and the message does not stop—it intensifies. Skipping meals can make you more likely to overindulge when you finally do allow yourself to eat. It’s much better for your health and your weight goals to eat several small, healthy meals and snacks throughout the day.
4. Keep Healthy Snacks Handy
By the time we feel hunger, we tend to reach for quick and easy-to-prepare meals and snacks. Part of curbing the tendency to reach for “sometimes foods” is making sure there are no candy bars around (see tip #2), but preparing snacks ahead of time will also help. When you bring groceries home, spend a bit of time chopping vegetables and slicing fruits into bite-sized pieces. Package them in individual containers and store them in the fridge. This is especially helpful for kids who always seem to be asking for a snack and may not be able to prepare a healthy option themselves.
5. Put Breakfast and Lunch on Auto-pilot
In addition to prepared snacks, take time to plan breakfasts and lunches for the week. If you are able to have these ready to go ahead of schedule, you are less likely to make spur-of-the-moment fast food purchases. Try making large batches of healthy meals and freezing individual portions to bring each day for lunch. For breakfast, try hearty steel-cut oatmeal with berries and nuts, a hard-boiled egg or two, string cheese, or yogurt.
6. Eat Dinner Together
Eat at least one meal per day together as a family. Kids who eat dinner with their parents tend to get better grades and be more open to communication. Family dinnertime is more than a meal; it’s a daily chance to reconnect with those most important to you. Also, the leisurely atmosphere ensures everyone eats more slowly, which helps prevent over-eating.
7. Exercise at Home
Want to make sure you stick to your resolution to exercise regularly? Working out at home can help, especially if you do not have time to get to the gym. Try walking around your neighborhood, doing an interactive workout video; investing in free weights, or jumping rope at home, instead. It’s a lot easier to commit to twenty minutes than it is to give over an hour of each day to exercise by traveling to a gym.
8. Play Together
Another way to sneak in extra physical activity is to play more! Engage in tickle fights with your partner and your kids, kick a ball around outside, or even play dancing video games—whatever gets your family moving.
9. Bedtime Routine
We all know sleep is important for our health, and kids need even more than adults. A good way to help them wind down each night is to establish and stick to a bedtime routine. The routine should vary depending on the age of the child, but as long as it remains constant each night, it will be an internal signal to wind down and prepare for a solid night of sleep. Nighttime routines are helpful for adults, as well! If you have trouble getting to sleep each night, try some warm, calming tea or a hot shower before bed.
10. One-on-One Time
Perhaps the best way to improve the overall health of your family unit is to make sure and spend one-on-one time with each family member. It can be a challenge to find the time, especially if you have more than one child, but this special time with each other helps strengthen your relationship, improve children’s self-esteem, and keep lines of communication open. Couple time together is important too. Make sure you and your partner have plenty of opportunities to talk and enjoy each other’s company.
Rachael Beyer, RD, LD, CDE
Clinical and Outpatient Dietitian