Is your New Years resolution to get healthier? Perhaps improve the health and nutrition of your family? Here are a few goals I challenge you to accept that will put you and your family on the road to a healthier 2020.
- Eat family meals together. It’s really true, a family who eats together, eats healthier. Research does show that children consume more fruits and vegetables and make healthier choices at family meals. Children are also more likely to try new foods at family meals. When eating together as a family without distraction (make sure the t.v is off and there are no electronic devices at the table) we are being mindful and slow down when eating and less likely to overeat since it takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain it is full. If getting the meal on the table is a challenge, check out an earlier post 10 Tips for Making Family Meals and Planning Easier.
- Cook with your kids! I have seen firsthand how taking a cooking class made my oldest child more interested in helping me in the kitchen and eating food she had never shown interest in previously. Kids of all ages can have a task from washing fruit and veggies, peeling carrots, stirring a pot (supervised) or by adding food to the blender or mixing bowl. Just this exposure will help improve their confidence to try a new food they helped prepare.
- Eat and feed intuitively. Throw away the diets, the meal portioners and diet foods in the house. Listen to your hunger cues, eat what you’re craving or what you know will satisfy and provide you lasting energy. Stop when you’re satisfied. For some people, this is being aware of times when eating is out of boredom and habit vs. true hunger. Learn to be an intuitive feeder by feeding your children on a schedule, allow them to eat as much as they want. Avoid feeding to soothe, comfort or reward your children with food. For more information on intuitive eating, I suggest you check out this book as a reference, Intuitive Eating.
- Include joyful movement. Make sure your children over 5 years are getting 60 minutes of accumulated activity daily. This is the recommendation put out by the World Health Organization. This can include walking to and from school, PE, sports, swim lessons, playing at the playground or having a dance party inside on a rainy day. Parents too will benefit from daily activity and keeping your child busy. Plan to ride bikes together, walk the dog together, walk your child to school (if possible) play with your children. The most important part is to find movement in your life that brings you joy that you look forward to.
- Cut the sugar. I’m all about moderation and don’t believe kids should be on a sugar-free diet, there is room for chocolate milk and donuts. Since parents are the feeders, it’s up to you to offer choices to your children that are balanced. The dietary guidelines specify 10% or less of total calories/day of sugar to help prevent diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Read more about sugar and how to calculate and reduce it in my earlier blog post, Sugar and Children, How Much is Too Much. The good news is that food labels are now starting to list total added sugar on the label, making it easier for us to find hidden sugars. We don’t need to concern ourselves with milk sugar or fruit sugar which are naturally occurring.
- Get more sleep. Numerous of studies have linked lack of sleep to weight gain in children and adults. A good bedtime routine that includes turning on electronic devices an hour before bedtime, can help improve sleep in children and adults. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 9-12 hours of sleep a night for school-age children. Not only will adequate sleep help prevent obesity, but it’ll also help with behavior, learning, and memory.