To encourage healthy habits in your family, you must practice those same habits yourself. Your kids will follow in your footsteps if you show them that living a healthy lifestyle makes you a better person. If you think about it, it’s unreasonable and hypocritical to expect from your loved ones what you can’t achieve yourself.
This principle applies to the activities you engage in and the food you eat; throughout this article, you should keep in mind the common theme of self-improvement being the first and most essential step to fostering a healthy lifestyle for your family. So, naturally, the very first thing you need to do is...
Be a good role model
Being a good role model isn’t about being perfect or superhuman; it just takes a positive commitment to simple, healthy habits. Start practicing these habits when your children are young so they grow up with the understanding that this is how things ought to be done, and they will continue to practice these healthy habits when they become adults.
When it comes to your diet, you should strive to eat a balance of different food groups. It’s equally important to remember that when you eat nutritious food with your children, you let them see that you enjoy your meal or, at the very least, that you are trying your best to enjoy it, even when you don’t.
You’ll be able to relate with your children much better if they can relate with you over a mutual dislike over certain foods, at which point you can impress on them how important eating a balanced and healthy diet is. Another method for setting a positive example that can have lifelong benefits for your children is to refrain from overeating.
Go on regular hiking trips or similar adventurous activities
Whatever activities you decide to do with your kids, don’t neglect the importance of proper preparation. Hiring a guide if you’re hiking in unfamiliar territory, always demonstrate the importance of taking safety precautions, and invest in good health insurance for your family. Physical health is important but outdoor activities will always come with some degree of risk. Still, a sheltered life away from danger is dull, unhealthy physically and emotionally, and is no way to live.
Apart from hiking, there are plenty of fun physical activities that you can do with your kids. Rafting and canoeing are great activities suitable for teenagers, and with proper supervision, swimming is an ideal activity for families with kids of all ages. If you live somewhere colder, skiing or ice skating are good options. Be sure to mix things up, so your kids don’t get bored.
Practice sporadic physical activity followed by shorter periods of rest
This is particularly applicable to encouraging younger children to exercise because of their shorter attention spans. According to research published in the Translational Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, forced participation in structured exercise can discourage children from physical activity for life.
Instead, take advantage of young children’s natural desire to play with brief, intense exercise sessions in short bursts. These can be as simple as a 10-minute game of tag in your yard or the park, followed by short 5-minute breaks for refreshments before the next round.
Train with your kids for their school PE tests
Keep yourself up-to-date on what activities your kids are doing for their physical education classes. Helping them prepare for PE class as a family is a great way to bond with them and even discover new activities they enjoy.
It could be that sports day is coming up and they are in the relay race. Practice this at home in the garden with them or even in the local park.
Have healthy options at home
Children, particularly young children, eat mostly what their parents provide at home. So, you must give them a selection of healthy mealtime and snacks, so they don’t get accustomed to binging on junk foods and properly see these as rare treats for special occasions.
Here are some basic guidelines:
At every meal, make sure to include fruit or veggies.
Have fruits and vegetables readily available to eat to make it easier for kids to snack nutritiously. Wholegrain unsalted rice cakes, celery sticks with peanut butter, and unsweetened dried fruits (in moderation) are other acceptable snacks.
Cook with less oil; roast, broil, grill, or steam food instead of pan-frying when you can.
Serve healthy plant-based protein sources such as peas, soy, lentils, beans and nuts.
Teach them the importance of a diet in high-fiber; serve whole-grain bread and cereals.
Limit sugary drinks, fast food, and junk food. Don’t ban these completely, so your children don’t feel deprived —having a regular family “pizza night” can be a great tradition when done sparingly. Maybe opt for one treat night each week and take it in turns to pick the special treat meal.
Eat together as a family
For both parents and children, family meals form a foundation for healthy bonding. Family dinners provide regularity for children and an opportunity for parents to stay in touch with their children’s lives. As discussed earlier, eating together is also a parent’s best opportunity to be a good role model for healthy eating.
It might be a little harder to relate with teenagers over family meals. But, teenagers crave parental guidance and support from their parents no less than younger children. Use meals to bond with your teenage kids by not pressuring them to talk about difficult topics, and keep meal talk fun and light-hearted —mealtime is no time for giving lectures or starting arguments.