Are you ready to get yourself and your family more active and fit? Together, you can work on making your body stronger and healthier. Living a healthy lifestyle can be simple and fun, but it takes a team effort. Offer healthy foods for meals and snacks and make them available in the home. Be a role model for healthy habits by serving the same foods to the whole family and being active with your children.
Fun Exercise Ideas
Children and adults should have 60 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. This means limit time spent in front of the TV, computer and tech devices, including cell phones and tablets. For children, screen time should be no more than 2 hours a day. This allows for plenty of time to get outside, go to the recreation center or play inside the house with your kids. There are many ways kids can get active –get creative in 2015 and check out these ideas to help your kids have fun and stay fit:
- Get involved in sports – There are many ways kids can stay active, from physical education at school to organized sports such as soccer, tennis, and cheerleading or just spending time outside engaging in active play.
- Consider active play activities – An important part of child development, active play includes activities such as swimming, hula hooping, dancing, obstacle courses, outside games, and just going outside and running around. Active play allows children to expand their creativity, build valuable peer relationships and gain conflict resolving skills.
- Make chores fun and active – Jump starting your family fitness routine is as easy as getting children involved in household chores. Helping around the house is a great way to unplug kids from their tech devices and get them up and moving. Think about chores like taking out the trash, washing the car, and vacuuming. If your family is ready for something more, try taking your dog out on a walk together or going on a family bike ride. Start out by keeping the activity short and increasing the duration over time. Over-doing it right at the beginning is a sure way to cause burn out. Be creative and let the kids have a say in choosing the activity. The most important part of whatever you pick is that everybody can have fun. Turn it into a game like tag, leap frog, or sharks and minnows. If your family has a good time, they will want to do it again and again.
- Take homework breaks – While it is easy to limit the amount of time your child spends on extracurricular screen time, homework is not as easy to regulate. If your child has several hours of homework, encourage them to take study breaks. Put on upbeat music for a quick dance party or take a brisk walk around the neighborhood together. Taking periodic active breaks helps with maintaining focus and reducing distractions. Exercise also helps to boost mood and reduce stress. By breaking homework and active time into manageable chunks, students can feel more relaxed and in control of the task before them.
Creative Meal Planning
Being active is only part of a healthy life style. Active play requires a nutritious diet to keep kids moving. Build strong bodies with lean proteins, low-fat dairy, whole grains and lots of vegetables and fruits. The recommended combined number of servings for vegetables and fruits is five to nine per day. Not only do they make great snacks, vegetables are also an easy way to add color to each meal. Set a goal to eat a “rainbow” of colors each day and encourage your child to pick out a new fruit or vegetable every time you go to the store. Again, get creative with your kids in planning healthy meals with these tips:
- Prepare meals together – Children are more likely to try new foods if they participate in planning and preparing their meal. After making the meal together, enjoy it together. Turn off the television and sit together at the table. Talk about each other’s day, plan activities and enjoy each other’s company – make mealtime a true family time.
- Start with a nutritious breakfast – People who eat breakfast are more likely to maintain a healthy weight, have fewer headaches and do better in school than those who skip breakfast. Choose foods high in fiber (whole grain cereals, nuts, whole fruit) and protein (eggs, nuts, low-fat cheese and cottage cheese) for lasting energy that will keep your child full and focused until lunch. A hard-boiled egg and glass of skim milk is an easy and nutritious option for a breakfast on–the–go.
- Modify favorite family recipes – Use low- or non-fat dairy products and lean meats or low-fat vegetarian options instead of high-fat meats. For added flavor, sauté vegetables in fruit juice, like apple cider. Use whole-grains when possible – brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat flour and oats are all good options. Cut back on fat when baking by replacing butter or oil with a mixture of half oil and half fruit puree, such as applesauce or pumpkin. Experiment with reducing salt and sugar and adding in spices such as cinnamon for flavor instead. Start recipe modifications by replacing or decreasing one ingredient at a time to see how taste and texture turn out. Your family may not even notice a difference.
- Choose healthy beverages – When it is time to rehydrate, reach for a glass of water instead of a sugary, high-calorie drink. Sweet beverages should be enjoyed in moderation. Even 100% juice is high in calories and sugar. Instead of choosing soda or juice, add a splash of 100% juice to sugar- and sodium-free sparkling water or add mint leaves, lime and cucumber slices to a pitcher of water for a refreshing treat. Experiment with fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs to find your family’s favorite flavor. As for sports drinks, it is okay to have one that is low in calories when participating in an organized sport that lasts more than an hour.
Being healthy is much more than just how a person looks. It is a lifestyle choice that leads to physical and mental wellbeing. Staying active and eating nutritiously can improve self-esteem, body image and overall emotional health and can reduce the risk of cancer. When children grow up with an active lifestyle they have the opportunity to develop better socialization skills and create life-long habits for living healthy.
Kellie Gilmore has been the Fit4Allkids Coordinator at All Children’s Hospital since 2004 and oversees nutrition and culinary programs as well as fitness classes for families. She has worked in the health education field with an emphasis in fitness and nutrition for families for more than 25 years. Kellie is also the team leader for a local women’s running group and enjoys many outdoor activities with her family, including swimming, biking, running, walking their dogs and paddle boarding.
For more fitness tips and healthy meal ideas you can do with your kids, visit Fit4Allkids.org