Simple Ways to Keep Your Family Fit and Healthy
by our Health Coach

The fit and healthy family lifestyle are quickly becoming a casualty to the TV, computer, video games and all of those enticing sugary drinks and snacks. Right now about 15 percent of American children ages 6 to 11 are obese and another 30 percent are considered overweight. If this problem isn't addressed, it puts kids at risk for a multitude of health problems as they age.

Parents often resist changing their eating and exercise habits because there is just too little time and money. But it really doesn't have to take a lot of either to get healthier. There are many ways to do so, and they don't have to be expensive or difficult. Here are some ideas that can keep your family fit and healthy.

Get Cooking:
Cooking and preparing meals as a family will not only give you a chance to bond, but it will also give you a chance to teach the kids about nutrition. If you keep it simple, it won't take a lot of time or money. Sitting down together for dinner is just as important. It allows you to relax and reconnect with each other, and it's better for nutrition.

More than 40 percent of Americans watch TV regularly while eating dinner, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. But, watching TV doesn't leave much time for connection or digestion. People tend to eat more while watching TV because they miss their body's cues telling them their full.

Go Bananas:
We all know that we need to eat more fruits and vegetables. If you have picky eaters, you may have to get creative, especially with the vegetables. You could try mashing up soft-cooked sweet potatoes, squash or carrots and putting them in spaghetti sauce. For snacks, you could have your family snack on fruits and veggies instead of pre-packaged snacks. Avoid too many choices when offering snacks to your kids. If you only offer healthy snacks, that is all they will eat.

Drink Up:
Drinking six to eight cups of water a day is essential to keeping your family healthy. Add a little orange, lemon or lime for flavor. Soda and other sugar drinks contain nothing but empty calories. Fruit juices also have a lot of sugar and no fiber. Low-fat milk is a great choice, especially for kids, since most of them don't get enough calcium. Just like with snacks, give them fewer choices (such as milk or water) to encourage healthy choices.

Size Things Up:
According to the National Institutes of Health, portion sizes have doubled or even tripled in the past 20 years. Keep kids portions kid-sized. Don't encourage your family to take seconds or force them to clean their plates. Their tummies will tell them when they are done.

Get Moving:
Schedule your activities (at least 30 to 60 minutes three times a week) and keep them simple and fun. If you never show your children the value of exercise, they may never know that it's important to being healthy and fit.

First, Make an Appointment:
As you work your way toward being more active, make sure to have your Health Coach approve of everyone's ability to exercise. Make an appointment for yearly check-ups and physicals... and not just for the kids either. Getting checked yearly for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other dangers will help ensure that you'll be around for your children for many years to come.

Make it fun:
You don't have to spend much money to get your family moving. You can do it for little or no money, and by making it fun, it will be easier to stick with. Here are just a few ideas you could try:

  • Park the Car.
    60 percent of Americans are not getting enough physical exercise to stay healthy, according to the 1996 Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity. Taking a daily walk can positive difference, so walk to school or the corner store whenever possible. And when you must drive, park at the back of the parking lot.
  • Walk in the Park.
    Going to the park is an easy way to get your family moving while spending quality time together. Take a picnic, and after you eat, you can walk, ride bikes or just play.
  • Get over obstacles.
    If the weather is bad, you could work together to create an obstacle course in your house. You could do jumping jacks in one room, sit-ups in one room and push-ups in one room. Place “hurdles” to jump over as you sprint from one room to the other.
  • Shake Your Bootie.
    For another indoor activity, turn off the TV, computer and video games and turn up the music. You can all learn about each others favorite music and make up dance moves.

There is no questioning the benefits that come from keeping your family fit, but to do it, you will have to make a conscious decision to live a healthy and active lifestyle. The most important thing to remember when trying to create new and improved family habits is that parents need to set an example for their children when it comes to nutrition and fitness.

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