Eating well and getting plenty of physical activity helps families in many ways including: reducing stress, anxiety, and depression; increasing energy and providing for better sleep; and lowering the risk of disease.
Developing healthy habits doesn’t have to detract from family time. You can eat better and get active as a family--these steps toward a healthier life can even be fun!
- Sitting down to a family meal is not just a chance to model good food habits that set the stage for a lifetime of living well, it is an important way to connect. Offer a variety of healthy foods, then focus on what your kids are saying, rather than what they are eating. Make mealtime a technology free zone so you and your children really get a chance to enjoy each other..
- Letting go of “clean plate” expectations will reduce stress around food and make the meal more enjoyable. Remember as long as the options you offer are healthy that children will eat according to their bodies’ needs.
- Reward children with attention and kind words, rather than sweets. Comfort them with hugs, not food.
- Whenever possible let kids invent or choose their own healthy recipes. Have them participate in working with healthy ingredients to make recipes like smoothies, trail mix, fruit salads, and other snacks. The excitement of getting to eat something they created will make eating more fun!
- Having difficulty providing healthy options for your family? Resources like food stamps, WIC benefits, or local food banks can ease the burden.
Doctors recommend that children and teens need 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Adults should aim for at least 30 minutes per day. If you want to increase your family’s overall physical activity level, try the following tips:
- Find activities the whole family enjoys and do them together. Shoot hoops at the local playground, play tag in the yard, dance, swim, or go for a bike ride. It doesn’t matter what activity you choose, as long as you make time each day to get moving together.
- If your children participate in organized sports, help them practice. Kick the soccer ball around the yard or in the street together. Pitch balls for her to hit or smack pop ups for her to catch.
- Instead of turning on the TV or going to your separate corners and turning on your devices, go for a walk as a family after dinner. For younger kids, make up games to play, such as “I spy” or “who can count the most...e.g., mini-vans?” For older kids, use the time to ask about school or friends.
- Walk or bike with your child to and from school or summer camp.
- Set challenges you can complete as a family. For example, sign up for a 5K or a mud run. Celebrate together when you meet your goals.
- Local community centers, like the YMCA, often offer free or low-cost fitness classes, clubs, team sports, and other activities for children and families. Many offer sliding-scale memberships, too.
Remember: Staying healthy is more fun when we all do it together. Bring your family together while making a healthier lifestyle a top priority!
(Adapted from: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/prevention_ch5.pdf)