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How Can I Get My Kids Healthy Without Setting Myself Up for World War III?
Taking control of your family’s health sounds like a battle in the making, but getting healthy doesn’t have to be hard or painful. Some super powerful health habits can take just minutes a day (and be fun too)!
What are some Effective, easy health habits my family can make?
For an overall healthy life (in a very short amount of time), try these super simple health habits in these key areas.
Fruits and/ or Veggies at Every Meal or Snack
Set Times for Meals and Snacks
Active Play Before Homework
Weekend Family Activity Tradition
Optimize Recovery (sleep and stress management)
Double Check Bedtime to Get Enough Sleep
Teach Them to Take a Deep Breath When Stressed
Retrain Your Brain (change your mindset & thoughts)
Teach Them a Growth Mindset
Start a Gratitude Tradition at Dinner
Normalize Body Systems (recover and prevent chronic disease)
Give Them Nuts for a Snack
Give Them Vitamin D (ask your healthcare provider first)
Try one habit or try them all. Your family can get healthier with these super simple health habits or you can get help from me 1-on-1 to get a personalized family health habit plan.
Whichever option you choose, your family can finally reach their goals.
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Healthy Doesn’t Have to Be Hard
It’s one thing to say that you want to get healthy this year, but trying to get your whole family healthy? That can feel like “crazy talk.”
“I want to get healthy, eat right, and exercise,” said No Kid ever!
But, what if I gave you the 10 simplest things you could do to help your kids get healthy? They’re so easy (and sometimes even fun) that your kids may not even realize that they’re the target of this year’s New Year’s Resolutions. Healthy doesn’t have to be hard, and it can start one small habit at a time.
Simple Eat Right Habits
First, we're going to talk about eating right. There's some simple little habits that can make a big difference in your kids’ health. (If you’re the kind of parent that wants extra credit, check out my article on a Dessert Day habit. My clients report that this makes a BIG, HUGE difference in their kids’ health—and the amount of whining for sugar that their kids do.)
Serve Fruits And/ or veggies at all meals and Snacks
The 1st habit is to eat fruit and/ or a vegetable at each meal or snack. When you save vegetables or fruits just for dinner, there is a lot of pressure on kids to eat a lot of them. But, if you give them small amounts of fruits or veggies at each meal or snack, those few bites here and there can really add up.
You don’t have to serve them a whole apple. You don’t have to give them a huge serving of vegetables. Just give them a few bites.
And, the amazing thing is that the easier it is to access fruit and veggies, the more likely it is that your kids will reach for them. I’ve been surprised when my kids will spontaneously eat veggies for snacks just because I have a vegetable tray in the fridge.
So, leave a fruit bowl stocked on the counter. Make sure you have cut up vegetables and fruit in your refrigerator for easy access. Learning to eat fruits and veggies throughout the day makes a huge difference in your kids’ overall health.
2. Set Meal and Snack Times
The 2nd Eat Right habit that your family can make is to eat only at designated meals and snack times.
This doesn’t mean that kids have to eat lunch right at 12:00. What this means is that you don't give them free access to the refrigerator or the pantry all day long.
Teach your kids that you have snack time at 3:00 (not all afternoon). Then, you eat meals at a set time also.
The thing is your body actually learns when you feed it, and will anticipate a meal or snack with hunger hormones. If you allow kids’ access to food all day long, then their little bodies will learn to be hungry all day long —except it seems, at dinner time when you want them to eat.;-)
So, teach kids to wait for meals and snacks. And, that bit of hunger and anticipation for their meal will ensure that they eat and enjoy their veggies too. This is a simple habit, but it can make a huge difference in your kids’ (and your) health.
Family Move More Habits
For our 3rd and 4th habits, we're going to get our kids to move more. Most kids love to move. It’s just difficult at times to find those windows of opportunity when they can actually do it.
Move more— so how can we get them to do that?
3. encourage play before doing homework
Habit #3—encourage your children to move right before homework. This has an amazing effect on their brain power. And, after a long day sitting in their seats, they probably have some wiggles that they need to get out.
Kids need at least 60 minutes of movement a day—with 75% of kids not getting enough activity.
Of course, movement that is passed off as play is generally better accepted by kids. If you can play with them, even better. I’m always amazed at how much I enjoy playing with my kids (when I actually do it).
So, encourage play before homework, and start racking up those 60 minutes of movement towards your kids’ health.
4. make a weekend family activity tradition
All right, what about habit #4? We'll we're gonna move more by doing something together as a family. Let’s make a Weekend Family Activity Tradition.
Maybe Saturday afternoon becomes Family Soccer Game time. Maybe Sunday afternoon becomes Family Bike Ride Time. Bad weather may mean you have Family Swim Time at your local indoor pool instead.
One of the Move More habits that I encourage my adult clients to make is to do physical activity for fun—not just exercise for health. And what better way to get yourself to actually do it than to get your kids involved. There’s nothing like a nagging kid to actually get yourself on a bicycle on a Sunday afternoon.
Make a family habit for activity on the weekends, and you may even find yourselves closer (and more active) as a family.
Optimize Recovery with Sleep and Stress Management Habits
Now we're going to talk about Optimize Recovery habits. These include getting more quality sleep and managing stress. This is where habits #5 and #6 fall. And, yes, your kids need help with sleep and stress too.
5. Make sure kids get enough sleep by checking how much sleep they need
Kids need a lot more sleep than you realize (at least it surprises me). Research show that kids are not getting enough sleep.
Chronic sleep debt is not good for their brains or bodies, so do a little experiment at home. Look at the list that I have below to find out how much sleep your kids need. Then, for a few days, check to see if they're actually getting it.
If they aren’t getting enough sleep, you may want move bedtime a little bit earlier. I recommend setting an alarm on your phone to remind you and your kids when it’s time to start getting their PJs on.
6. teach them to deal with stress with a Deep Breath
Stress. Yeah, your kids can get stressed too. I recommend teaching them what stress is, how to recognize it in their bodies, and then teach them to take a deep breath. (Be sure to see next month’s articles for some game-changing ideas about stress.)
Teach them that the stress response is your body’s way of getting you ready to take action on something you care about. But, if the stress is just in their mind (and not actionable), then teaching them to take a deep breath will be helpful. The deep breath can help them to reset from fight-or-flight mode to rest-and-digest mode.
Retrain Your Brain to Feel Better
Okay, on to habits #7 and #8. These are going to be easy habits to change your kids’ mindsets. They’re also known as Retrain your Brain habits.
7. teach a growth mindset to your kids
There's a lot of research that shows that you want to teach your kids to have a growth mindset. A growth mindset means that you believe that your abilities or talents can get better through dedication and hard work.
Kids who have a growth mindset (instead of a fixed mindset) believe that they can learn more or become smarter if they work hard and persevere. This allows them to view challenges as opportunities to improve instead of reasons to quit. A growth mindset will also help them to be happier and more successful in the long run.
Teach kids that they aren't just smart, but they worked hard. They should be taught that they aren't just a gifted soccer player. They've got to work, grow, and practice to be a gifted soccer player.
Teach your kids that being good at something isn’t a static talent or attribute. Being good at something isn’t genetic, and it isn’t a “God-given talent.” You need to work at it. You need to grow.
To foster a growth mindset, watch how you talk to your children. When they do well on a test, say “you tried hard” instead of “you’re smart.” When they say, “I'm not good at math,” say instead, “You can get better. We're gonna work on it. We're going to grow.”
8. make a gratitude habit at the dinner table
Habit #8 is to help your kids make a gratitude habit. Science shows that gratitude increases optimism, life satisfaction, and decreaes bad moods.
You may have some ideas for how to teach your kids gratitude (like saying “Thank You”), but the easiest way I’ve found is when our family is sitting down and eating dinner. We each go around the table and talk about the best part of our day, the worst part of our day, and then we end with one thing we’re grateful for that day.
This focus on gratitude shifts your kids' minds from, “Oh, I want this, and I want that. I'm stressed about this, and I'm stressed about that.” One simple habit to keep the whole family talking at dinner can help build a life long habit of optimism and happiness.
Recover from or Prevent Chronic Disease with Simple Habits
Habits #9 and #10 help you to normalize kids’ body systems. What this means is that these habits help you to prevent (or even recover from) chronic medical conditions in kids.
You may not think this is an issue, but unfortunately, it is. Oh my goodness! Diseases are starting earlier and earlier in kids. Yes, I've seen it personally— high cholesterol, pre-diabetes, and high blood pressure in kids.
Doctors are worried about kids’ future health when they start out in their childhood with diseases that didn’t usually show up until late middle age. Let’s keep our kids healthy for life starting with these simple habits.
9. Nuts as a Super Food snack
It's crazy what you can do with just simple habits— like giving your kids nuts as a snack. If your kids aren't allergic, this is habit #9.
Of course, don’t give kids the whole container of nuts. Just measure out a portion. It's a great snack for your kids (along with those fruits and veggies in Habit #1) that will also help their health long term.
10. give your kids vitamin D
Habit #10—last but not least—is to talk to your doctor about whether your child should take vitamin D supplements or not. Studies have shown that 1 in 10 kids are full-on deficient with an additional 6 out of 10 kids having less than optimal levels of Vitamin D.
Talk to your doctor and see if extra vitamin D would be appropriate for your kids. Current recommendations are for babies who are breastfed and kids and teens who consume less than 1 quart of vitamin D–fortified milk per day will need supplementation to reach 400 IU of vitamin D per day. If your child is low in vitamin D, they may need considerably more than 400 IU/ day. Vitamin D for kids come in liquid drops and gummies.
All right, there you go. Ten totally effective health habits you and your family can make together for a happier, healthier year. Pick one to work on or go for the gold and work on all ten. To make it do-able, pick one new habit a month and make this year your family’s healthiest ever.
What to Do Next
Want to DIY your Health and Weight Loss Habits?
If you want your family to be healthier this year, start with these 10 Easy-Peasy Healthy Habits that are also super effective. Even if you’re crazy busy, I bet you can find the time to implement these. Not only are they easy to do, but they’re pretty pain-free (and sometimes even fun). These 10 simple habits will help set your kids on a a healthy path for years to come.
Want Help With That?
If you’re done with DIY and want you and your family to reach your health goals this year once-and-for-all, here’s what you should do:
We’ll map out your FAMILY’s customized habit plan together.
Then, we’ll get started--finally succeeding one habit at a time.
With the Real Healthy Habits Jumpstart Program, your definition of health and weight loss success can finally be a reality.
Until next time,
I'm a dietitian, personal trainer, and health coach who started asking all the tough health and weight loss questions-- like how do we get more willpower, why can’t we stay motivated, and why is getting healthy and losing weight so tough?
I discovered that the answer to all these questions is simply--Your Brain.
I help frustrated people end their health and weight loss struggles by understanding their brain and then working with it—instead of against it. Then, I teach them how to put their personalized health habits on autopilot for results that last.
You deserve the health and energy you need to live your best life.