Posted: Aug 05, 2014 8:00 AM
Everywhere you look, there are messages about foods to avoid, controversies over which types of exercise are best and concerns over the deteriorating health of our nation. An expert shares tips for encouraging healthy habits for the whole family.
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Forming healthy habits as a family

We woke up early and let our kids spread neon cornstarch on their faces, their arms and any of our skin they could reach. My husband, our kids and I all ran in a Run or Dye™ race. Run, of course, is relative when talking about a 6-year old and 4-year old. Out of the 5K race, only spurts of it consisted of running, but only a very small portion of it consisted of the 4-year old wanting to be carried, so we considered it a successful morning.

Obviously, my husband and I weren't running the race with our kids to break any time records. We simply want them to see us participating in some of the activities we do to stay healthy, and running in low-key races is something fun we can do as a family to promote health. Developing healthy habits can be more difficult than it seems, especially with a vegetable-boycotting preschooler, but an expert shared some advice about easy changes and routines to instill in families for healthy futures.

Daily habits for healthy families

Dr. Ellen Albertson, Ph.D., RDN, CD, is a psychologist, nutritionist and licensed wellness coach. She shared some daily habits parents can work to develop with their kids to promote overall health and wellness. One of the main things Dr. Albertson emphasizes is to set manageable goals. She says, "Rather than setting a goal of exercising for an hour every day, shoot for 20 minutes of fun, convenient activity three to four times per week. Make it a play date! Save time and exercise at home — walk in the neighborhood, play a fun exercise video before dinner, turn on some music and dance, shoot hoops or jump rope."

She encourages families to implement the following four habits for continual wellness.

  • Eat together. Studies show this simple act improves eating habits, helps families bond and can even boost grades. Again, shoot for three to four times per week to start. If evenings don’t work, have breakfast together. Aim for two servings of fruits/vegetables at each meal and go for whole grains.
  • Stock the pantry with plenty of healthy snacks. Good options include nuts, whole grain crackers and pretzels, string cheese, fruit and hummus with pre-washed veggies, like baby carrots and broccoli. Kids and adults will eat healthy snacks when they are hungry if they’re available.
  • If you don’t do it already, create a bedtime routine. For little kids this can be reading a bedtime story. For older kids it can be just talking for a few minutes plus a kiss and a hug — teens really need affection too. Touch generates oxytocin, the chemical of care and connection. This helps kids feel secure and the routine promotes a great night of sleep. Turn off all media at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Brush and floss together. This is such a simple habit that has huge benefits over one's lifetime.

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