How Can I Help My Family Get Healthier?

by Sarah Bregel
Originally Published: 

As the member of a growing family, I’ve found that taking care of my health comes a whole lot easier when I have the proper support. Though all my husband really has to do is cut out dessert, or exercise a whopping two times per week to get fit (infuriating, yes), having common goals makes all the difference in motivating us both to do better. Likewise, the minute I get knocked-up, turn into a barf bag and my workouts get flushed, he immediately becomes a slug and packs on the “sympathy weight.” This is also true for other times I fall off the wagon, but my current (pregnant) situation proves this point pretty accurately.

Though my husband may have an easier time toning it up than myself due to his chemical make-up, good choices are contagious. Spouses and children that see good habits happening on a day-to-day basis are likely to have an easier time engaging in them without question. It just becomes part of the daily flow.

Here are a few simple tips to make getting healthy together part of that daily flow…

1. Take a family walk after dinner. This is great habit to start taking part in for several reasons. The first is of course the added calorie burn you’ll get from walking, as opposed to plopping in front of the boob-tube or the Ipad (you can always do that afterwards). But the second is digestion. You will actually digest your food quicker and improve blood sugar levels from even a short walk of about fifteen minutes.

2. Stock up on “good treats”. Good treats are basically healthy, yet satisfying foods that your family enjoys. Popcorn is a great example or chopped strawberries with a drizzle of chocolate. Having these types of snacks highly available will lead to more good choices and less bingeing. Remember, a treat doesn’t have to mean something terrible. A treat can be a delicious and healthy food that nourishes, too.

3. Make healthy meals together. Allowing kids to participate in cooking often makes them more psyched to eat foods they may not usually be stoked about. It’s more satisfying to eat something you helped chop, stir or season, rather than something that just appeared on your plate. Likewise…

4. Let kids partake in grocery shopping. This is another great way to get kids involved with mealtime preparation. Let them pick the vegetables you’re going to use for making dinner. Giving them some amount of choice in the process can have a lot of positive impact on their willingness to eat whatever it is.

5. Don’t practice deprivation. Not with kids, not with yourself- not with anybody! Depriving yourself of something completely leads to more desire for that something. If you tell kids “no sweets” as a rule, they will likely believe sweets to be the greatest and most amazing thing in the universe and seek them out. Allowing a bit of those guilty pleasures is actually a healthy practice, as long as it doesn’t go overboard.

6. No phones or TV on at the dinner table. There are a lot of reasons that screens at the table is not a good idea, but in terms of health it just doesn’t serve you. Even being partially distracted by a phone or the tv on in the background leads to more unconscious overeating. Instead, practice enjoying every bite. It’s a much more pleasurable way to eat anyway!

7. Have a cheat day and don’t feel guilty about it. Having a day once in a while where you allow yourself to eat whatever you’ve been craving or slack off on the healthy rules you’ve set for yourself can actually re-motivate you in the long run. I’m not telling you to eat half a chocolate cake on Sunday evening, but if you do, it’s not the end of the world. It may motivate you to try harder come Monday morning. Having a cheat-week of course, is more detrimental. It’s important not get hung up on the less than perfect diet or exercise choices you make so that you can easily get back into the swing of your healthy habits.

8. Eat every two to three hours. If you’re going long stretches throughout the day without eating, typically more than four or five hours, your body goes into “starvation mode” which means your metabolism comes to a screeching halt. Once you become accustomed to eating more often, you will be hungry more often. This is actually a good thing because it means your body is burning up calories, rather than storing them. Things like fruit, nuts and yogurt will help to keep your energy up and your metabolism working well. This is equally, if not more important, for growing kids.

9. Go outside even if you’re laying in a hammock. This has little to do with being more active and everything to do with exercising the calming centers of your brain. Being outdoors is therapeutic (for you and your kids!). So eat dinner on the front porch, dig in the garden or just lay in the grass and look at the stars because, no, there’s not an app for any of that! You may find that a little time spent outdoors helps everyone sleep better, as well, which if you ask this exhausted mama, is pretty darn worth it.

10. Dance it out. Even if 5 o’clock is typically happy hour at your house, you can still crank up the tunes and get moving. If you’re a stay-at-home parent, it can be a refreshing way to just let everything go at the end of a stressful day. Likewise, if you’re busy working a desk job it will probably feel good to move your body and enjoy some quality care-free time with your kids. It’s an instant mood-booster, a calorie-scorcher and good old fashioned, ridiculous-looking fun. Just make sure the blinds are closed.

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