8 Habits for a Healthy Family
1. Eat Breakfast: People who eat a healthy breakfast (blueberry donuts do not count!) are more mentally alert, perform better at work, at school, and on the field, as well as have an easier time managing their weight than non-breakfast eaters. Breakfast is an excellent time to start the day with a nutrient packed power meal, by consuming fresh fruit and vegetables along with fiber packed complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and mono-unsaturated fats. Breakfast is especially critical for children and adolescents; therefore, it is important to start early with creating the habit of eating a healthy breakfast.
2. Set a Regular Grocery Date: One of the biggest challenges busy families face when it comes to meal time is not having the right ingredients on hand to whip up a quick and healthy meal. This usually results in the need to head to the nearest fast food pick up joint for a quick - and not so healthy meal. A regular grocery date will help ensure your fridge will always be stocked with healthy food for those very hectic days!
3. Prepare Meals in Advance: Along with setting a regular grocery date comes the important habit of meal planning in advance. Life is busy and few families have the luxury of being spontaneous during the work and school week to figure out "what's for dinner", shop for the necessary ingredients, and then cook the meal! Spend a little time over the weekend prepping food for the week and I can almost guarantee your week will run a whole lot smoother! Create a system that works for you.
Monday: Meatless Monday - Vegetarian Dish
Tuesday: Poultry or Fish Night
Wednesday: Soup or Chili
Thursday: Leftover Night!
Friday: Homemade pizzas, tacos, or breakfast for dinner
Leave the weekends for a little more impromptu eating and plan according to what is going on in your life. But following a system as the one above takes the stress off you in thinking you need to create something elaborate every week, but gives you the flexibility to mold the menu to your family likings. Try one new recipe a week and use family favorites for the other nights.
4. Involve the Whole Family In Meal Planning: Parents often feel the need to take on the weekly challenge of meal planning as a solo task, when in reality weekly meal planning should be something everyone (ages 5 and up) is involved in. If you have young children, have them participate at an early age by letting them browse through picture cookbooks and find meals that appeal to them. For adolescents, give them the responsibility of planning one meal a week. Involving the whole family at an early age helps create the habit of the importance of advanced meal planning. This also helps reduce the "I do not like this!" tantrums, as well as increase the overall nutrient profile and variety of foods served because everyone has a chance to give their input.
5. Eat at the Table: Creating the habit of eating together at the table sets the foundation for many healthy habits. In today's fast paced, busy world it can be hard to sit down, slow down, eat and enjoy a meal together. But this is one old fashioned habit that should be re-established as a regular part of your routine. Eating together helps people connect and share what is going on in one's life, it helps you relax, unwind, and create memories. Eating at the table also helps create the habit of mindful eating. When the TV is turned off and external distractions are put on mute (i.e. telephone, email, and text alerts), people are better able to pay attention to their internal hunger and fullness cues, helping to prevent mindless and over eating.
6. Snack on Fruits and Vegetables: When it comes to eating healthy we have all heard "snack on more fruits and vegetables!" But the reality is, as a society, we are accustomed to snacks coming in fancy pre-packed containers. Unfortunately our children are learning "snacks" come from a box and not Mother Earth; this is setting un-healthy habits from the start. We have the power to transform children's snack habits by simply having more fruits and vegetables readily available on a regular basis. Children learn what they live, therefore if fruit and vegetables are served as a snack from an early age, children will grow into adolescents and adults snacking on more fruits and vegetables!
7. Make Water the Go To Beverage: Creating the habit to drink more water is a simple but yet very important one. Here are some ways to increase your overall water intake and make it a family "habit":
Drink a glass of water first thing when waking up...even before breakfast!
Serve water with meals.
Keep homemade fruit flavored water in the fridge (i.e.placing fresh fruit slices in a pitcher of water and letting it sit overnight).
Have everyone carry their own water bottle around with them
Dining out? Create the family habit to order water!
8. Pack Food the Night Before: Help your family create the daily habit of preparing for success by packing their meals and/or snacks the night before. When morning time comes it is easy to forget to make that turkey sandwich for lunch or grab some fruit, yogurt, and nuts for a midafternoon pick me up! But if you do so the night before, and make this part of your daily routine, it becomes a regular habit. Having your meals and snacks in a convenient location (i.e. cooler), will prevent a midafternoon fast food drive thru, helping everyone eat healthier as well as saving time and money. This is a habit that will serve your young adolescent children for many years to come!