Five ways to get healthier as a family
If you’ve ever wondered how you can implement healthier habits at home with your family, look no further. We talked to a dietitian and a personal trainer to get five doable things you can try right now to help you and your family get healthier together.
“A healthy diet is essential for your family’s physical development, physical health, behavioural health and mental health, particularly regarding the relationship with food,” says Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN, who serves on the advisory board for Smart Healthy Living. She adds that a healthy lifestyle starts in childhood and must be continued through adolescence and adulthood.
She says perhaps the most important aspect of child nutrition is how a child perceives food, weight, and body image, which is why her first tip for getting healthier as a family is to have healthy and happy mealtimes.
Create a healthy, happy mealtime environment
It can be frustrating if you have picky eaters in your family or if your children are being defiant at the dinner table. But “mealtime is not a time to barter or make anyone feel guilty,” Kostro Miller says. “Mealtime should be stress-free and a positive family activity. Parents often argue with their kids about eating. Some parents get so upset if their child hasn’t eaten their meal that it becomes a standoff with their kids. Remember that missing a meal is only one meal. If they start missing meals regularly, talk to a registered dietitian or doctor to rule out other causes.”
She also advises avoiding calling foods “good” or “bad.”
“Instead, focus on what nutrients that food gives you. For example, apples give you healthy fibre and vitamins, so that’s a great food to have often. Doughnuts, on the other hand, really only provide great taste and sugar, so they don’t give you much nutrition. Teach kids to have more of the nutritious foods (because they have a lot to give) and use nutrient-empty foods, like a doughnut, as a treat.”
Make family time active
“Instead of family movie night, make your family time more active by going for a walk, going to the park or even playing active video games.”
Avoid using food rewards
“It’s very common to go out for ice cream [or something similar] when your child gets all A’s on their report card. However, using food as a reward can create poor habits and add on extra calories, sugar, and fat into the diet. Instead, opt for non-food rewards for the family (i.e. go visit a museum, go to the aquarium, go for a bike ride, give a ‘chore-free-for-a-day voucher,’” says Kostro Miller.
Making lifestyle changes as a family can be rewarding and help everyone bond, says personal trainer, nutritionist and founder of Truism Fitness Jamie Hickey. He shares two tips to get healthier together.
Automate breakfast and lunch
Instead of rushing around in the morning trying to figure out what everyone’s going to have for breakfast, and then having to pack lunches on top of that, Hickey says it helps to plan ahead and put these meals on autopilot.
Without a healthy go-to option, we’re far more likely to make spur-of-the-moment grabs for less-healthy foods, Hickey explains. “Plus, having a staple makes grocery shopping much easier. … Every couple of weeks, change up your options so that you don’t get bored.”
Click here for some WW-friendly breakfast recipes you can make ahead.
Exercise 20 minutes a day at home
Yes, specifically at home. Here’s why: “If you have to leave your house to exercise, you’re automatically going to need more than 20 minutes to exercise. An hour can be hard to fit into the day, 20 minutes isn’t. Keeping your daily workout plan short makes it easier for a group of people to get on the same page and will prolong your success,” says Hickey.
You can combine this tip with Kostro Miller’s active family time advice and aim for 20 minutes of active family time a day. Depending on the ages of your children, you can vary the type of exercise you do together. Maybe you all do a workout video. If you have a home gym and teenaged children, maybe you all do a couple of workout circuits together. Maybe you play basketball in your driveway, maybe you go for a walk around your block or have a dance party in your living room. Whatever it is, just have fun with it.