Written by: Cally Worden
Our attitudes to diet and lifestyle are often driven by our early family experiences. We all know theory about getting lots of exercise and eating a healthy diet, but it’s so easy to let things slip when life is full of work and family pressures. If this sounds like you and your family, then you could be storing up trouble in the years ahead for your kids. If you think your family needs a nutritional shake-up, then consider these 7 simple ways to steer you all towards healthier living:
Eating together as a family provides the perfect opportunity to open a dialogue with your kids about healthy eating and exercise. Chat about the foods in front of you, and how they form part of a nutrient rich diet – or not, as the case may be. Fruit and veg may not be top of their list of preferred menu items, but you can pique their interest by drawing attention to the diets of their sporting heroes, or celebrity faves. Just be careful to stress the importance of a balanced diet, and flag the dangers of extreme or fad eating habits.
2:Get the Kids Involved
Shopping with your kids is a good start, and a great way to get them interested in the food that they are served. For older kids, encourage them to select their own personal recipe to prepare (with your help) for dinner one night each week. Getting them to help choose a meal, and then buy, prepare and serve the food with you can help them to develop a healthy and active interest in what is on their plate.
3: Be a Good Example
‘Do as I say, not as I do’ simply won’t cut it. If you are constantly making poor food choices, and avoiding exercise then you can’t expect your children to do any different. Eat healthy, and instigate family exercise or sport activities. Don’t give your kids the excuse to bow out.
There is more than one way to skin a cat. While we don’t suggest you try this particular exercise, the principle is important – boiling veg to a pulp is never going to make it all that appealing, so experiment with different cooking methods. Stir frying and steaming are a great way to lightly cook veggies so that they retain more of their goodness and keep little tummies fuller for longer too. And working veg into soups, stews and sauces is the ideal way to introduce unpopular foods into your children’s diet without them even knowing. My daughter virtually faints at the sight of a mushroom, but happily devours huge bowls of a chicken and mushroom risotto I make as a regular mid-week meal.
5: A Two-Pronged Approach
A healthy lifestyle involves exercise as well as eating, but this does not have to mean sport. Many girls love to dance and make up energetic routines to their favourite tunes, and a simple outing to the park with a ball will prompt even the most sluggish of boys into a bit of running around. Once again, setting a good example is important where exercise is concerned. Show that you like it, and your kids will eventually clue-in to the benefits too.
6: Embrace Targets and Goals
You don’t want to raise children who are obsessive about their weight and figure, but setting achievable goals and targets as a means of stimulating action can be useful. Star charts for younger kids work wonders (5 stars a day, one for each fruit and veg portion, with a weekend ice-cream treat of they manage all 7 days, for example). Older children may enjoy new clothes or a little extra pocket-money as an incentive.
7: Take it Slow
Trying to impose any wholesale lifestyle change on your family is never going to work. Teenagers can be as militant as toddlers, and the stubbornness of tweenies is legendary. Make changes a bit at a time. Get the family interested enough to care, and gradually you will be able to introduce your family to a healthier lifestyle, without them even realising it.