Healthy kids and parents start with healthy family habits. Creating a healthy attitude at home gets everyone involved and sets your family up for a healthier future. Making healthy habits a family affair can kick-start new traditions and be great fun.
Healthy Families Do These Things
Here’s some habits to grow in your family. Keep in mind that many factors shape a healthy journey, including stages of life, preferences, access to food, culture, traditions, and personal decisions.
- Choose healthy foods and beverages with less saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.
- Make small changes to build a healthier lifestyle
- Support activities for physical and mental health.
1. Use MyPlate for Portion Sizes
The MyPlate method — which is the current USDA nutrition guide — is a great way to visualize proper potion sizes. A few guiding principles of MyPlate for families:
Daily food intakes (for most of adults 19 years or older):
- Vegetables – 2 ½ to 3 cups per day.
- Fruits – Half a cup to 2 cups per day. Fruit can be enjoyed as a sweet treat. Eating fruits lower in sugar content gives health benefits without the insulin spike.
- Grains – aim for 5 to 8 ounce equivalents per day. A 1 ounce equivalent is a slice of bread, one cup cereal, or half a cup rice, pasta, or cooked cereal. Choose whole grains.
- Protein – aim for 5 to 6 ounces of lean protein per day. A 1 ounce equivalent is broken down as 1 ounce of meat (about the size of a tiny matchbook), ¼ cup of cooked beans, one egg, one tablespoon of peanut butter, or half an ounce of nuts or seeds.
NOTE: If you’re over 50 and female, eat half a cup less of the above totals. Also, if you’re female and have a smaller build, aim for the lower end of the ranges. If you’re a large male, aim for the higher end.
2. Watch for Added Sugars
Added sugar in your family’s diet doesn’t add nutrients, but it does add a lot of empty calories, and it can lead to weight gain, obesity, tooth decay, diabetes, heart disease, and more.\
So, how much added sugar is OK? For women, the maximum amount of added sugar you should have in a single day is 25 grams, which is an eighth of a cup. For men, try to keep your added sugars to less than 36 grams per day, which is less than a fourth cup.
Natural vs. added sugars:
- When you’re cutting down on sugar, don’t make the mistake of cutting out natural sugars. Some sugars occur naturally in foods like fruits, vegetables, and even milk. Naturally occurring sugars are often found in foods with the health benefits of fiber, water, and nutrients.
- Added sugars, on the other hand, don’t add ANY positive benefits to your diet. They added in the form of table sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.
Juices vs. soda and sports drinks:
Most common beverages contain added sugars. A lot of people will say, “Well, what about juice? That has sugar.” But the sugars in most fruit juices are naturally occurring sugars. A beverage like 100 percent orange juice actually has zero grams of added sugar. The same is true with milk.
The trouble is most other packaged beverages contain added sugars. In fact, some contain A LOT of added sugars. The average 12-ounce non-diet soda contains 39 grams of sugar, or about 9.5 teaspoons — that's more sugar than anyone should consume in a day. If you drink your maximum amount of added sugars, it doesn’t leave any room in your daily allotment for anything extra like dessert.
Steps to eating less sugar
- Don’t drink your calories – experiment with infused waters instead.
- Start with breakfast – go for a veggie-egg scramble or fruit.
- Modify recipes requiring sugar with replacement options or removing sugar.
- Use a shopping list – A little planning can keep you from snacking and get your kids to love healthy food.
- Check the labels – If sugar is listed in first three ingredients, skip it.
- Store it out of sight – Let the pantry be your friend and hide the candy dish.
- Surround your home with healthy snacks.
3. Try Kid-Friendly Yoga
Weight management starts early with healthy habits, including diet and exercise. But what if your child isn’t athletically inclined? Try yoga with your kids instead. It might sound crazy, but yoga is something kids as young as 3 years old can do. And it isn’t just about contorting your body into a pretzel. Yoga includes simple breathing exercises and can help kids connect the mind and body.
- Yoga improves strength, flexibility, and balance.
- Yoga is an amazing stress reliever that helps kids recognize how their bodies feel and how to calm themselves and focus. These are skills that may help in situations such as taking a test or eating mindfully.
- Yoga is an ideal physical and mental activity for those kids who shy away from competitive sports. It’s an individual activity, but done in a group setting, which gives an opportunity to be social.
- Yoga is challenging, empowering, but most of all… it’s fun!
- Fist-breathing: Breathe in while making a fist for a count of 4, and exhale and release fist for a count of four.
- Downward-facing dog: The head below the heart creates calm and a stretch.
- High plank: Develops core muscle strength and perseverance.
- Tree: Find focus, balance, strength, and coordination while standing on one leg.