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Statesman 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 MBA, RDN, CDCES, LD
Clinical and Outpatient Dietitian
Santiam Hospital