activities for kids, health

Make Healthy Eating and Exercise a Family Affair

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A colorful display of fresh fruits

Have you ever noticed that it’s much easier to stick to a diet or exercise plan if you have someone in the trenches with you? Have you ever been the person eating carrot sticks and celery while watching someone else eats fat-drenched carbs with sugar on top? Why not make healthy eating and exercise a family affair?

Ditch the Junk Food

Starting with food, which is often the most difficult part of the willpower bandwagon, if the whole family is working on eating healthy foods, you can just keep those sinful temptations out of the house. Consider avoiding the junk food aisle all together and purchasing healthy alternatives for snacks.

Whole grain crackers, pretzels, yogurt, string cheese, nuts, apples, carrots, celery, kale, berries, bananas and other fruits are healthy alternatives that often cost less in the long run and are chock-full of vitamins, dietary fiber and low in calories and fat. Experts recommend placing the healthy alternatives at eye-level in the cupboards or refrigerator so that the healthy items are the first thing a person sees when they look for a snack.

Look for Healthy Alternatives to Family Favorites

If your whole family is working on healthy eating, you can look for healthy alternatives to your favorite dishes. Enjoy baking? Often substituting pumpkin or applesauce for the butter or oil can work well in muffin, cake or brownie recipes. It replaces the fat, adds flavor and vitamins and is an easy swap.

What about using cooking spray instead of full-force oil in your cooking? Adding more green leafy items, more vegetables and fruits to your meals can make a big difference as well. Does your family enjoy spaghetti dinners? Consider swapping the heavy pasta for lighter alternatives – spaghetti squash is a vitamin-rich alternative. Eight minutes in the microwave, top with your favorite marinara sauce and you’d hardly know the difference. Yet the difference between them is huge — 31 calories in spaghetti squash versus 158 in spaghetti per serving.

Family Fitness

Why head out to the gym on your own if you can bring the whole family? Often a gym will offer a substantial discount for a whole family membership, and many gyms even provide childcare and play rooms for smaller children. Older children will enjoy shooting baskets, running around the track, and your pre-teens and teens will enjoy learning to use the weight machines and free weights.

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Exercise doesn’t have to stop at the gym. Gearing up for a 5K? Why not register the spouse and kids as well? They’re likely to be there to cheer you on anyway, but if you’re all in it together you can prep for it together and eat healthy in preparation together.

Maybe you’re not a runner. Family walks after dinner are a nice way to wind down and hear about each other’s day. Weekend hikes, skiing, biking or paddling trips are excellent ways to commune with nature and create memories your kids will have with them forever.

The best thing about involving the whole family in healthy eating and exercise? Making healthy choices now will make all of you healthier in the long run and will help to establish wonderful fitness and eating habits in your children that they will continue throughout their lives. Studies show that children that are active do better in school, have more confidence and even do better on some tests. With the multitude of benefits for everyone, why not get everyone involved?

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