Healthy living is one of the most important gifts we can give our families. When we set up healthy habits, not only are they helpful in the moment, but they can give our children a foundation for a healthy life ahead.
We know the benefits. But healthy living is work.
It’s easy to throw on a pizza and pile onto the couch to watch our favorite program. Cooking a meal from scratch and going for a walk after dinner? Talking about your feelings? That’s a different ballgame.
When we talk about healthy living, it’s important to cover three basic areas: Mental, physical and emotional health. These tips will attempt to address all three in simple ways that you can incorporate into your daily routine.
Healthy living takes some effort, but it doesn’t have to be a struggle.
#1. Cook More Meals at Home
You knew this one was coming, so let’s get it out of the way. When you cook meals at home, you’ll use better ingredients and less sodium. Your meals will also be fresher, which means they have greater nutritional value. Nutrients start to degrade from fresh fruits and veggies as soon as they’re picked.
According to a Public Health Nutrition study, people who cook dinner at home more often consume fewer calories than those who cook less. Another interesting finding was that the people who cooked more at home also consumed fewer calories when they went out to eat. It could be that people who cook at home are used to smaller, healthier portions.
Since it can be difficult for busy families to find the time to cook, look for recipes that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less, and buy as many prechopped ingredients as you can to cut your time further. These may not be the ideal choice nutritionally, but they’re definitely better than processed food.
#2. Exercise Regularly
It’s crucial that everyone in your home has an exercise routine. If the kids are active during the day, they may not need anything formal. But mom and dad usually need a plan for exercise. Maybe you go for a walk every day, take a yoga class or spend some time on the treadmill. Shoot for 30 minutes of exercise every day to get the greatest health benefits.
Although 30 minutes every day can seem insurmountable when you’re talking about exercise, remember that it’s only 30 minutes. You can do anything for 30 minutes. Try taking a walk on your lunch break. And if it really seems tough, start with 10-15 minutes and work your way up.
#3. Buy More Organic Foods
With each passing year, there are new super-pesticides (to fight super-bugs) and genetically-modified organisms creeping into our food supply. Unfortunately, these things are very difficult to avoid, but you can make a difference by purchasing organic non-GMO ingredients whenever possible (or growing your own). Of course, these foods are always more expensive than their pesticide-laden counterparts, but you can strike a balance that suits your budget. Check out the Dirty Dozen list to find the most heavily sprayed crops each year. If you can replace the worst of them with organic versions, you’ll make some impact on what your family is consuming.
#4. Unplug From Technology
Many studies have been done on the negative effects of technology and social media. For example, did you know that people who often post selfies are more likely to be depressed? And social media influences teen drug abuse, according to some research.
As you’re reviewing the studies, you’re probably getting ready to ban technology from your home altogether. But let’s remember that there are some upsides. And these days, most kids use technology for their schoolwork, so a full-on ban wouldn’t even work.
The best course of action is to limit and monitor. Limit screen time to an hour for kids under five. For older kids, you can use your best judgment, but three hours a day should be plenty for most kids (and less is great too).
When your kids do use technology, monitor what they’re doing. This will help keep you abreast of any issues that may include cyberbullying, depression or inappropriate online relationships.
#5. Eat Dinner Together
Since you’re going to be cooking fresh meals more often, this is a great time to sit around the dinner table and enjoy them as a family.
Get in the habit of talking to your kids about what’s going on in their lives. It helps to start these regular conversations early. As soon as they can talk, you can begin recapping their day at the dinner table. It should become second nature for them to share with you, and you should do the same. Let this be a two-way conversation, so your kids feel comfortable sharing with you. And if they tell you something you don’t like, try not to overreact. This is important if you want them to keep sharing.
You’ll want your kids to be able to come to you with problems, and as you keep talking, you’ll be able to detect any behavioral changes that may occur. Major changes in behavior could be signs that your child is anxious, depressed, being bullied or abusing a substance. Any of these things could lead to mental health issues, so it’s important to remain involved in your child’s life.
#6. Have Difficult Conversations
No one wants to have the birds and the bees talk with their kids. Talk about awkward. But it can be a lot easier if you ease into these things. Try to keep an open dialogue about things like drugs, alcohol, and sex with your kids. It’s not always comfortable, but if you want them to grow up to be healthy and well-adjusted, it’s important that you are their information source. Their friends may fill their heads with confusing half-truths.
Sometimes, it seems like healthy living is impossible for busy families. It’s as if this lifestyle is only meant for rich people who don’t work and have full-time nannies. But with a few small changes, you can make a major impact on your family’s overall health and wellbeing.