Last week, I discussed three New Year’s resolutions to help get your family healthier in 2014. Here are some more ideas. Like I said in last week’s post, adopt as many of these as you think are realistic for your family. Or pick one change to implement each month as the year goes on. By summer, you will see some real changes!
More Fixes for Healthy Family Eating:
1. Eliminate sugary beverages, including juice. This change is pretty simple and can have a huge impact. Sugary beverages are problematic because it’s easy to quickly consume a lot of calories without feeling full. Juice and sports drinks are not ideal drink choices either, as they are just as calorie-dense as other sugary beverages like soda. It is better to get the vitamin C and electrolytes from healthy food choices. Kids rarely need sports drinks to replace electrolytes during or after physical activity unless they are involved in multiple hours of continuous physical activity and are sweating a lot. Chocolate milk is also considered a sugary beverage, and should be replaced with plain milk. If you are wondering how much sugar is in some of your family’s favorite drinks, measure out one teaspoon of table sugar for every 4 grams of sugar in the “Total Sugar” content on the Nutrition Facts Label. Be sure to look at what the serving size is and how many servings your family member is consuming. I have done this experiment with many families, and they are always shocked since no one (not even the kids) would consider drinking that heap of table sugar.
2. Do something active for at least 60 minutes, every day. Encourage your child to be active by having plenty of outlets for physical activity all year round. For days the weather is not conducive for outdoor play, have a bin filled with things like jump ropes, hula hoops, balls, and other toys. Encourage your child to participate in sports or other hobbies that involve physical activity. Be a good example. Find ways to be physically active as a family, such as walking places within a mile or so instead of driving. This is possible even in cold winter months as long as you dress warmly. If your child is resistant to doing fun physical activities, then offer another option— house chores.
3. Limit screen time to less than 2 hours per day. When you think about how many hours your child spends sitting at school, then how many hours they spend sitting doing homework, then how many hours they spend sitting watching TV or playing on the computer—it adds up to a pretty sedentary lifestyle. This is one of the biggest implications of childhood obesity in our culture today. We have transitioned from a society that relied on physical labor to complete daily tasks, to a society that relies on convenience. Kids used to play outdoor games and sports for fun, and now they play video games. I have had some school-age kids tell me that they just don’t know how to play. Set boundaries around screen time. One idea is to have the kids earn screen time by doing 60+ minutes of physical activity and completing homework.
Any of these New Year’s resolutions will make a healthy impact on your family, especially if the whole family is on-board and participating together. The resolutions described are all simple changes, but can be challenging to implement and sustain without commitment. For more personalized planning and troubleshooting, make an appointment with a registered dietitian at North Shore Pediatric Therapy.