Many of my friends, those who attend my workshops and classes ask me how to make their family healthier. Time is limited, they don’t want to be a slave to the kitchen (check out my blog on how to not be here), and they want to spend time with their kids, not put them in endless activities or in the kids care at the gym so they can workout 4 days a week or more. While I do advocate alone time for working out, and need the gym for motivation, I don’t like spending all my time away from my kids either. Here are 6 tips to create a healthier family you can easily incorporate today:
- Dinner time is family time: I always had the best conversations with my family over dinner. Topics ranged from school, to stuff I learned on the internet, to medical stuff (my family is in the medical field) much to my dad’s dismay topics were usually gross. We talked money, healthy food, movies, everything. It was great bonding time. But it wasn’t limited to the table. My sister and I helped in the kitchen. We were tasked to mix the sauce, put the pasta in the water, set the table and help wash or dry the dishes. Turn off all distractions (yes even your phone) and talk with your kids. If you’re not sure where to start, kids love jokes. Break the ice, talk about our day, plan what family activity to play together tomorrow or talk social lives with the kids. Stay positive! Don’t bring negativity to the table. It’s bad for digestion and you don’t want kids to dread family dinners. If you need to lecture your child, wait until dinner and dinner chores are over.
- Play together: Exercise is movement. Movement is allowed to be fun! Go hiking, play soccer, race on the monkey bars, ride bikes together, rollerblade, skateboard, make an obstacle course and go through it together, chase each other down the sidewalk or across the park, swim, play volleyball, the options are endless. No matter what the weather, there are always options, no excuses. Create great memories and “free exercise” wrapped in one. Win-win!
- Limit Screen Time: Kids need a minimum of an hour a day in aerobic activity. A great way to encourage movement is earning screen time through physical activity. One example is: 1 hour of play outside equals 1 30 minute show, or 30 minutes videogame/computer time. The hour of movement a day makes kids (and adults) calmer and more able to focus. You might be thinking, what about homework? If you let your kids “get the wiggles out” as I call it, they will be more willing (and able) to sit and do their homework. Their brain was just fed a bunch of oxygen and nutrient rich blood and they burned off some excess energy. Homework time might be cut in half just because they aren’t busy wiggling in their seat constantly.
- Stock your pantry right: Kids growing bodies need real, nutrient-dense food. They also need autonomy and the ability to make choices themselves. By keeping healthy choices where they can see them and reach easily without a stool or chair, encourages autonomy while controlling their options. In my pantry, the shelf that is eye level to my kids is their shelf. I keep on hand, in individual or snack size portions: whole grain cereals, homemade granola, dried fruit and nut trail mix, nut butter, popcorn kernels (not the prepackaged stuff), and whole grain crackers. In the fridge I keep a plastic bin with fruit and veggies on the same shelf as a water dispenser and their milk.Not only does this make them feel like they have options and control over what they eat, it helps us out by not having to grab snacks for them every time they feel hungry.
- Water and Milk (all kinds of milk) only: Americans consume on average 156 pounds of sugar a year. That’s a whole person!! Most of it comes from sweetened beverages. (Find out more about sugar here.) There isn’t a loophole going for the sugar free beverages either. Aspartame, Splenda, and other zero calorie sweeteners are detrimental to your child’s and your health. (Find out more here.) However, kids love juice. A great way to include healthy juice for your and your family is to invest in a juicer and make it together. No added sweeteners or food coloring and you know exactly what is in it! They get to learn how juice is made and it’s healthier and tastier than anything you can get in the store.
- Be a role model: No need for perfection.If you want your kids eating vegetables so they can be healthy, you have to eat them too. Kids don’t do the whole “do as I say, not as I do” thing. All you need is a positive attitude, be honest, do your best and they will notice.
I hope you find these tips helpful. If you have any suggestions, comments or questions, I’m here for you and would love to talk with you!
Live Healthy and Whole,