Tips for Families who want to Build Healthy Habits
Do NOT aim for perfection!
Maybe the meal you prepared last night wasn't perfectly balanced. Or maybe you were running late after work today so there was no time to go on a family walk before dinner. Strive every day for healthy habits but be kind to yourself when things don't go as planned. Our daily pattern of food choices and physical activity has a much larger impact on health than those times when we get off track.
Plan ahead for balanced meals at home.
Simple balanced meals that are prepared at home save money and promote health. Investing a few minutes to plan out meals and make a grocery list for the week ahead can save time and will assure that you have the needed ingredients. For ideas and help in meal planning check out this free resource, which is a collection of low cost recipes made from real foods. Enjoy!
Make veggies an expected component of your meals.
Challenge the family to try vegetables prepared in different ways: roasted, raw, steamed, stir - fried or mixed in with soups and side dishes. When veggies are a normal part of everyday meals, kids are more likely to accept them.............and eventually LOVE them! Make them taste great by adding fat and maybe a touch of salt (think sautéing veggies in olive oil or adding some butter to steamed veggies such as broccoli and carrots). Experiment with garlic powder, black pepper and fresh or dried herbs. Encourage your child to taste the vegetables, but never force them to do so since this does NOT work, and may in fact make matters worse! Try the Chop Chop website for some "kid approved" veggie ideas.
Snack for the right reason.
Most kids are hungry after school. This makes sense because it has likely been a few hours since lunch. Eating a balanced snack in response to hunger is a good thing! Always "check in" with yourself to make sure you are in fact hungry before eating a snack. Boredom, stress, anger, fatigue, etc. are NOT good reasons to eat between meals. Also beware of those times when you are NOT hungry, yet something in the fridge or pantry is calling to you! Get your mind on something else like going for a walk, brushing your teeth, organizing a drawer..........really anything that will occupy your thoughts and help you to forget about eating.
Eat the Right Kind of Snack when Hungry
So let's assume for a moment that we are eating for the RIGHT reason (because of hunger). Don't expect to feel satisfied for very long if the snack choice is a processed carb based item such as packaged chips, pretzels, granola bars, fruit / cereal bars, flavored fish or animal shaped crackers, etc. Refined carbohydrates are quickly turned into sugar in the body, leaving us feeling hungry again very soon. Instead, try a balanced snack which includes protein and needed fats such as:
raw veggies with hummus
sliced apple with peanut butter
cottage cheese, dusted with your favorite seasoning
handful of nuts
cheese with a few whole grain crackers (choose a cracker made without harmful partially hydrogenate oils)
fresh avocado slices served on half of a toasted whole grain English muffin
Make Physical Activity a Family Thing
Try to engage in several family centered physical activities each week.............with the focus on FUN! Options abound, no matter how much (or how little) time you have:
Indoor Family Activities when Time (and Daylight) are Limited:
Dodgeball (using a soft, sponge -like ball)
Dancing together (make up dances; have dance contests; dress up for themed dancing such as 50's music, etc.)
The relay vacuum "game" (family is positioned throughout the house and ready to quickly vacuum when the it is their turn)
Indoor hop scotch
Family members take turns leading exercise "classes"
Outdoor Family Activities
Hiking together on one of the many local trails. Bundle up if needed and don't let cold weather hold you back!
Kicking a soccer ball
Taking the dog for a walk in the neighborhood.
Turn the jump rope for each other and let everyone do a jumping demo.
Relay races: let everyone come up with their own idea for a relay and try each one!