In addition to your personal new year’s resolution, consider making a family resolution to be healthy in 2013. Through the simple tips listed below, you and your family will begin creating healthy habits—a gift that truly lasts a lifetime.
1) Eat better—and together
Though school, work, and activity schedules are hectic, don’t give up on the idea of family dinners. Instead of eating on the run or unhealthy snacking, establish routines for breakfast, lunch, after-school snacks and dinner. Regular family meal times are proven to lower rates of obesity and the likelihood of developing eating disorders. Also, children who eat with their families perform better in school and have higher self-esteem. Use family meals to teach your children about positive eating habits, such as eating reasonably-sized portions and healthier alternatives. By involving your children in the planning and cooking process, you are teaching them valuable lessons about choosing healthy options and taking responsibility for what they eat. Finally, don’t try to forbid fast food or junk food. Teach your children that they are treats to be enjoyed occasionally but should not replace regular meals or snacks.
Make exercise easy by incorporating it into the daily routine. Take a walk or bike ride every night after dinner. Start with a goal, such as 30 minutes or one mile. The time spent walking is also an opportunity to connect with your children. Other ways to be active include doing chores together, planning an active family activity each weekend or working together to train for a 5K that benefits a cause your family supports. Encourage an active lifestyle by limiting time spent in front of the television or playing video games. Children who spend more than two hours in front of a screen (including television, computer or video game) are much more likely to be obese. Keep televisions out of your child’s bedroom and turn off the television during family meals. Families who aren’t glued to the television will focus better, be more active and discover new ways to stay entertained.
3) Set a good example
Even if you haven’t had the best track record with food or exercise, your willingness to change your ways and adhere to a healthy lifestyle will deeply impact the decisions of your children. Parents have an incredible opportunity to improve the lives of their children—all by making better decisions about their own health. By choosing healthier foods, staying active and striving for a healthier lifestyle, you have communicated more to your child than teachers, the media or peers ever could. Think about the changes you could make in your own life that would teach your child positive habits in the long term. If you smoke, seek out help to quit. If you have notoriously unhealthy eating habits, work to make better choices for your family and on your own. Your children will notice and remember as they begin to make their own decisions.
As you work toward your family resolution of better health, make sure everyone is doing their part to achieve your goals. Though resolutions can be difficult to keep as the year grows busier, don’t give up on eating healthier, staying active and instilling positive long term habits. Create a chart to keep in your home in which each family member records how they worked toward their goals that week and what they’re struggling with. Use time at family meals to discuss your family’s progress and positive choices. It doesn’t have to become a time to single-out someone who’s struggling; focus on the improvements in energy, self-esteem and lifestyle.
For more information on improving your family’s health in 2013, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/family/ or the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital website, www.etch.com.