These simple steps can help you eat better and exercise more, based on proven principles and research from ChildObesity180 at Tufts University.
1. Plan ahead to make sure healthy choices are always on-hand. Meal planning for the week ahead will not only ensure that you set up healthier options for day-to-day choices, but can also become a creative outlet for families to plan together. Plan for meals that have a balance of healthy fats, lean protein and complex carbohydrates. Try a “Meatless Monday” or similar theme night to simplify planning even more.
2. Build a better lunch (together). Involving kids in the cooking process can get them more excited about what’s in their lunchbox and help you avoid calorie-dense fare in favor of more wholesome options. Try packing lunch-sized portions of fruits and veggies over the weekend to streamline lunchbox prep on cold winter school mornings.
3. Join the “balanced plate” club. Instead of focusing on the “clean plate club,” which can send the message that portions don’t matter, talk to kids about how to set up a balanced plate. ChooseMyPlate.gov has resources and clear, colorful visuals.
4. Eat the rainbow. Foods that are (naturally) brightly colored are full of different antioxidants, vitamins and minerals—and they tend to be fruits and veggies. If you and your family “eat the rainbow” by including seasonal foods of every color between breakfast, lunch and dinner, you’ll be sure to get a mix of these essential nutrients. Younger children might have fun with a chart that helps them track their “rainbow foods” every day.
5. Move more by making family activities physical activities. It’s easy to incorporate meaningful movement into typically sedentary activities. Try doing jumping jacks, pushups, or wall sits during TV time, especially in the commercial breaks. Make household chores a game, race, or obstacle course that encourages extra steps.
6. Get out of the house to limit screen time. Especially in wintertime, the cold can persuade us to keep warm indoors with our favorite shows. We all know it’s important to limit screen time, but it can be hard to cut back on a habit without building a new one. Making a rule to spend more time outside as a family – even just 20 minutes each day – can give you the extra push to stick with it. Try hiking, ice skating, basketball, or rock-climbing for a change of pace.
Forming healthy habits like these early in a child’s life can help to prevent serious issues like obesity down the road—and they’ll last far longer than anything on your holiday shopping list. For more resources, visit www.ChildObesity180.org.