5 Steps to a Healthier Family

Healthy Life DirectionIf you are reading this, chances are you already do a great job feeding your family—planning, preparing, and paying attention to the important details of nutrition.  But getting nutrition right is a work in progress, and there’s no better time than now to re-emphasize your efforts.

And when it comes to kids, we parents have to be on our toes!  To create healthy eaters who appreciate good food and a healthy body, parents need to go the extra mile.  As you move forward in the new year, these pointers will help you and yours along the path to great health—making your family even healthier than you were last year!

  1. Family-Style Meals: You've heard a lot about having meals together, but have you thought about how you serve them?  Do you pre-plate the food you serve your family?  If you do, this may be sabotaging your family’s intuition about how much and what to eat. Family-style meals or The Dinner Bar approach offer the independence your child needs to make the decisions about food and eating that is right for them.
  2. Fun Family Exercise: For children, exercise has to be fun!  And let’s admit it, when kids and adults are having fun, both are more likely to participate.  Turn your family walk into a hike. Take your love for summer swimming indoors and your love for the water to the ice rink. Stuck at home? Try the new video dance and sports games and host a family tournament.
  3. A Sweet Approach That Will Satisfy:  Try the 90:10 Rule.  It’s a simple guideline for kids to use for keeping the sweets under control. It goes like this:  90% of what you eat in a day is good-for-you, growing food (aka MyPlate foods) and 10% of what you eat in a day is FUN food (sugary sweet, high fat foods, aka “junk foods”).  For most kids, 1 to 2 FUN foods each day are reasonable.  And the best part: kids are in charge of their FUN food choices!
  4. If You Haven’t Tried These Foods Yet, Now is the Time:  Loaded with nutrients like protein, fiber, and healthy fats (aka nutrient-rich foods) and low on sugar and saturated fats-- these are sure to be part of your New Year shopping list!  Edamame, nut butters, Greek yogurt, bison, tilapia, flank steak, reduced-fat Cheddar and Monterey-Jack cheeses, quinoa, bulgar wheat, and whole grain pasta. I could go on and on, but you get my point, now is the time to experiment and try new foods to get your family’s health to the next level.
  5. Tweak Your Feeding Philosophy: Tweak your self-concept: think of yourself as a Provider, “bringing home the bacon and frying it up in the pan.” Your child is the Consumer—she decides if she will eat and how much.  Remember that your child is the master of his own appetite and body. This straightforward philosophy about feeding goes a long way in reducing friction at mealtimes, and problems with eating. And it helps parents keep the division of responsibility intact.

I know that you can be even better in the new year!  Every step forward, every new attempt, and every new behavior will help you be a better parent and provider, helping your family be healthier--mind, body and soul!

Jill Castle, has over 20 years of professional and practical experience in the field of pediatric nutrition. She is a registered dietitian and child nutrition expert who is passionate about equipping families with knowledge and "know-how" when it comes to raising healthy eaters. She is a mother of four children, blogger, and co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters.