Kids live what they learn. It’s an adage that rings true in every area of life, from relationships to work ethic and yes, healthy habits.
But life with kids is hectic, dang it! It’s hard to think about creating a healthy lifestyle when there are 20 loads of laundry piling up—we get it.
We’ve laid out seven key steps to making your family’s lifestyle a little bit healthier. Remember: every little bit helps!
Soccer practice, voice lessons and a carpool that never seems to end. Life often gets in the way of putting together healthy meals.
To increase your likelihood of eating a nutritious meal together as a family, plan in advance.
If you don’t have one already, create a family calendar on the fridge that contains everyone’s various commitments through the week. Block off shopping, cooking and mealtimes on the calendar like you would any other event—then stick to it!
Having a calendar helps to assess your family’s unique challenges that stand in the way of eating meals together.
If it’s lack of time, try blocking off two hours on Sunday to prep a few meals ahead for the week. If getting to the grocery store is the issue, try making one shopping trip that will cover your family for two weeks, rather than going sporadically when they pantry starts looking empty.
Oh, the dreaded trip to the grocery store.
Let’s be real, moms. We know grocery shopping often falls on your shoulders. It’s time to get the whole family involved.
First, don’t go in unarmed. Make a shopping list and stick to it.
If you have trouble coming up with enough different meals to get you through the week, try these weekly meal plans from the National Institutes of Health or Whole Foods’ list of easy meal ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
When it’s time to hit the store, bring the kids along. Divvy up the list and assign older kids different items to track down and check off.
Bring younger kids with you in the cart and explain what makes certain foods healthy. You can use this time as an opportunity to teach little ones about nutrition labels and what they mean.
To stretch your budget to the max, buy produce that’s in season and consider cooking a few vegetarian meals each week (the cost of meat can really add up for families).
Preparing meals can be one of the most fun activities to do together as a family.
When you involve kids in cooking, they’ll be more likely to eat those veggies on the plate. Plus, learning to cook fosters learning and responsibility.
KidsHealth.org offers some great ideas to involve kids in meal prep, for example stirring ingredients together, mashing potatoes, kneading dough and spreading on toppings.
Older kids will be more likely to enjoy meals they’ve picked and made themselves. Try letting them put together easy meals, like spaghetti with turkey meatballs, on their own. You can even allow them to give you instructions for how to help (and you know pre-teens will love that!).
If you’ve got a picky eater in the house, do a little behind-the-scenes action in the kitchen and sneak veggies into things like soups, mashed potatoes and smoothies.
According to the pediatric health organization Nemours Foundation, kids that enjoy regular meals with their families are less likely to snack on unhealthy foods throughout the day.
As teens, they’re less likely to smoke, drink or use marijuana. What great reasons to enjoy family time around the table, right?
Turn off the TV, leave cell phones in bedrooms, and spend the meal talking to one another.
- Stay Active
Don’t wait until kids become overweight to start thinking about physical activity.
Physically active kids are more likely to be academically motivated, alert, and successful. But with so many screens at our kids’ fingertips, we as parents have to actively work to incorporate more physical activity into our day.
Previously, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended limiting screen time to two hours per day for children over two, but recently updated its guidelines to be more consistent with modern technology use.
As screens have become such a dominant part of how children learn, communicate and consume information, the organization now recommends parents set aside “screen free” time each day in which children play outdoors, engage in sports, read or participate in non-screen hobbies.
Even with “screen free” time, we can’t expect our kids to be active if they always see us sitting on the couch!
Be a role model for an active lifestyle by going on family walks, incorporating physical activity into your weekends and actively looking for ways to move more each day.
- Manage Stress
Being chronically stressed out has been linked with overeating, obesity and a host of other health problems. Not cool!
Keep a lid on your family’s stress level by nipping problems in the bud, before they snowball out of control.
The American Psychological Association suggests talking with your kids regularly, keeping an open line of communication where they can come to you about problems at school, with friends or otherwise.
And don’t forget about yourself!
Stress is a part of adult life—yes—but you can help keep it at a manageable level by exercising regularly, eating nutritious foods and getting enough sleep. Try to avoid sacrificing your own well-being in the name of “getting it all done!”
- Build Healthy Habits and Find Balance
Remember, a lifestyle change happens one small habit at a time. Don’t get overwhelmed by trying to change your whole life overnight!
Our post on How to Start a Healthy Lifestyle From Scratch details more than two dozen small habit changes you can make that will put you on a path toward a more healthy overall lifestyle.
On your family calendar, try setting one new goal every week that the whole family will try to meet.
Small changes each day become habits over time!