Resolutions for the New Year are often personal and optimistic. So much so, parents may leave their kiddos behind in their quest to “get healthy.” But what if you take a different approach and make a resolution that is family-wise, practical and easy?
Here are 13 easy changes that will help your family unit launch a healthier lifestyle:
Eat together more. Squeeze in family meals whenever you can. Seize the opportunity even when it feels like an unlikely occasion—like breakfast or snack time. Eating together and family meals have a number of health benefits.
Make meals a “must-do.” No skipping! Kids and adults who run off to school or work without breakfast may be hungrier as the day proceeds, and overeat after school or late at night. I call this backloading, or getting a big bulk of your caloric intake at the tail end of the day, rather than eating evenly throughout the day.
Shut the kitchen down. Even kitchens need to sit clean and unused periodically throughout the day! Close the kitchen between meals and snacks. Say, “The kitchen is closed right now,” to set a boundary around eating and discourage grazing. Don’t forget to assure children when the next meal or snack is scheduled, so they know you have a plan for addressing their nutrition needs.
Ask and You Shall Receive (maybe). Use an “ask first” policy when it comes to food and eating. Kids can ask an adult for permission to eat at non-meal or non-snack times. Adults too, can follow the “ask first” policy—only they can ask themselves, “Am I hungry?” before diving into the snack drawer.
Keep fruits fruitful. Have plenty of fruit on hand! Keep a bowl on the kitchen counter filled with a variety of fruit such as apples, bananas, oranges, clementines, grapefruit and more—or a tub of cut up fruit in the fridge and let hungry snackers dive in.
Bring veggies front and center. Include vegetables at lunch, serve them with snack time, and offer them as the first course to mealtime. Research shows when veggies are front and center, they are more likely to be eaten. Don’t be stingy with the sides! Dips like salad dressing, nut butter and hummus, or pairing veggies with cheese, can be just the nudge to get the family crunching away.
Cut the Fat. Opt for low-fat dairy and fat-free dairy items such as milk, yogurt and cheese. Choose lean cuts of beef, skinless chicken, and more fish and beans.
Shake the salt habit. Americans get plenty of salt, even kids. The easiest way to cut back on salt is not to place the salt shaker on the meal table!
Ditch the sugary drinks. Soda, lemonade, sweet tea and sports drinks contain added sugar, and that means added calories. Opt for water most of the time, and make sweet drinks a ‘special occasion’ item.
Move it! Move it! Move it! Find ways to be on your feet more than on your derriere. Walk, run, play sports, do yard work or housework—anything that keeps the family on their feet more often than not. This means cutting back on the sedentary stuff like watching TV and surfing the net.
Value a sleep routine. Little Sammy isn’t the only one who needs a good night’s sleep. All family members can reap the benefits of regular sleep, including better focus and concentration, and regulated appetite and weight.
Get in Touch with the Inner Self. Are you hungry for food? Is your child bored rather than starving? Is your teen (or you) succumbing to peer pressures? Getting to know the hunger cues and fullness signs; emptiness, loneliness, and boredom triggers; developmental ages and stages; and the family food preferences can help navigate the inevitable daily nutrition challenges of feeding a family.
Be All That You Can Be. Role modeling a healthy lifestyle is the most powerful tool to getting your family to be healthier—far more than telling your family how to do it. Walk the talk!
What family resolutions are you making?