small lifestyle changes that will impact your family’s health this year
I hear it, friends: Some of you are exhausted, and the school year has hardly begun. Summer may have left you frazzled, and already the fall calendar is filling up. I’ve heard from plenty of people who are facing this season feeling more fluffy than fit…and the thought of holidays can be downright overwhelming.
Then there is the rest of the family…Perhaps your whole family is not as healthy as they ought to be…some minor bad habits are becoming bigger ones. Junk food, or lack of activity…Bad sleep habits or too much screen time. Where do you start?
Making big changes to a family’s daily routine can seem impossible. Many families feel like they are on survival mode, and aiming for a complete “lifestyle overhaul” may not be received well. Because of this, most people put off change, waiting for “just the right time” (maybe the New Year? Or next summer) to tackle new habits.
Yet a few small changes can have a dramatic effect — in fact small changes can be extremely powerful, if practiced consistently over time!
So do not despair: You still have time to make some changes which can literally redirect yourself, and your family for the upcoming year. The beginning of a new school year is a great time to make some changes. In fact, sometimes it seems easier to instill new habits and resolutions as school starts than on the first of January.
And trust me when I say: The lifestyle habits you model, and teach your kids, will have a great influence on the choices they make for a
lifetime. (no pressure, but yeah–that’s a big deal!)
If you want to develop some healthier habits for your family now, try starting with these:
10 SMALL CHANGES that will improve your family’s health right now:
1) Swap out the junk. Like, literally. Its pretty simple: get rid of the things that are dragging you all down! Most of the time it is snack foods like salty potato chips or processed food. If so, I encourage you to swap them out for some of the amazing alternatives. I mean really: There are a lot of great options if you look. From steamed edamame, to healthier crackers, energy bars, dried or fresh fruit, or raw nuts or seeds…try something new and your whole family might be surprised. Just try trading out some of the junk for something better and do it for a month straight and see what happens. New habits really can be formed!
2) Make the family commit to doing some exercise every day. It doesn’t have to be more than ten minutes, but do something! Try a short abdominal workout, a ten-minute yoga routine, or just find a set of stairs to tackle four or five times. Though this benefits your heart and muscles, the even greater benefit is actually psychological. You are essentially telling your body and mind that fitness and healthy living is PART OF who you are. You are defining yourself are and your day will be different when you make exercise a priority. PS For family bonding + light exercise, an after-dinner walk is awesome! (especially while there is still some daylight!)
3) Establish firm rules for technology and screen time. Take advantage of a new season to set some fresh boundaries for the whole family. Determine what you think is appropriate for time on the television, computers, and all devices. Posting rules is super helpful. Then, stick with it! Kids may push back at first, especially if they had a lot of freedom over the summer, but you’ll all be better off for it. (a post about kids and technology here.)
4) Have fresh veggies readily available –and visible. This requires a bit of effort, but even that part can become a habit. Here’s what I recommend: Stock up on some fresh produce, and as soon as you get home from the store, wash it and cut it up. Put it in clear, easy-to-see containers, and make sure the whole family knows. Then, when the pre-dinner munchies come on, pull out a tray of fresh veggies and tell the kids to dig in! This may not change lives on the first day. In fact, that tray may sit mostly untouched for the first few days you pull it out (though I doubt it) but keep it up. Day after day. Don’t make chips or junk food an option when the veggies are out. Eventually the whole family will start dipping in and enjoying the colorful, crunchy veggies you have provided. I really believe this one trick can change family’s lives!
5) Creatively mix healthy ingredients into… almost everything. A food processor or Vita Mix can be your best friend for this one. A cup or two of chopped veggies can go into everything from meatloaf, to spaghetti sauce to brownies! My theory (which I’m pretty sure has science behind it but let’s just go with it) is that the more veggies that you take in, the more you crave! So some unnoticed spinach or carrots in the spaghetti sauce might just cause people to start craving more veggies later. (Hey, it’s worth a shot!) You can also add a spoonful of chia or flax seeds to all kinds of baked goods and often no one will even notice. These are full of vitamins and healthy fatty acids and really– the little things will add up!
6) Swap out your dinner plates! It has been proven that if you eat your meals on a smaller plate you will usually eat less. If one of your goals is to eat smaller portions: Try eating most of your dinners on a lunch-size plate.
7) Redefine dessert. Our family loves a sweet bite after dinner, but a sweet bite can come in many forms. Fresh fruit (with maybe a dollop of yogurt or whipping cream if you must. ;)) is a favorite alternative to a rich dessert in our house. My husband and I often have a cup of tea or coffee after dinner and that is really satisfying. Sometimes it’s best to just brush your teeth and call it quits after a meal. If you have a bad habit of late night snacking, I challenge you to swap it out and see how it goes!
8) Set a bedtime alarm. Yes, you too. Most of us work hard to get our kids to bed at a decent our as school gets started again, but we forget that we need sleep, too. Research has shown that setting an alarm for a time to begin your bedtime routine really helps. Then turn off devices and head to bed. You’ll be glad you did when the wake-up alarm goes off!
9) Educate the whole family on what it means to embrace a healthy lifestyle. As with everything, kids are much more likely to cooperate when they know the reasons behind what you are asking of them! Show them a well-balanced plate. Even if they’ve learned it in school, it really is our job as parents to educate our kids on how to take care of themselves. Let them know the long-term effects of eating healthy, or not. If all else fails, just appeal to their vanity. Greasy and sugary foods have been proven to increase acne. Healthy foods improve skin, and a low-fat, nutrient rich diet is a big key to keeping lean and fit. Hair, nails, and athletic performance are all affected by a healthy diet.
10) Make a family challenge! Sometimes a good family challenge is the best way to kick everyone into gear. Set a goal of doing a 5K as a family and add a reward for best time (or most improved, or just finishing it!) Plan it far enough in advance (Thanksgiving might be perfect!) and then start training together, talking it up, and making a big deal of it. Perhaps a month off of sugar, or avoiding all fast food? The important thing is that when you are focused on a goal, everyone is more likely to start moving towards it!
If you follow even a few of these suggestions, and keep it up for the next couple months, by the holidays your family will be in a lot better place.
Free download: If losing weight is on your mind, I would love to offer you a downloadable printable that I created last year. “ELEVEN LIES THAT MIGHT BE KEEPING YOU FAT.” (<—click on link to get download.) This is something that you can hang up in your closet or on the fridge… Hundreds of people have found it super encouraging as they change their perspective and find the true key to lasting weight loss.
Keep in mind, Moms and Dads: When it comes to parenting– More is caught than taught. Start with yourselves, then inspire your kids to follow.
Has your family made some changes for better health this year? Are you ready to set some new goals? Share a habit or commitment in comments! You might just inspire a few other families.
**Photo credit, Emily Turner.