Registered Dietitian, Marlo Mittler, provided this post to True Citrus.
As a Registered Dietitian specializing in Pediatrics, Adolescents, and Family Nutrition, I am always teaching my clients the importance of facing nutritional and fitness changes together as a family. As a mom and wife, I lead my family by this same value.
When you consider the statistics it’s alarming that approximately 29% of children are overweight, and that 64% of illnesses today can be linked to weight and dietary habits (such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc). The fact that only 1 in 5 kids meet the USDA’s recommended fruit servings each day is astonishing (no, fruit juice does not count).
Yet still, I know that if we unite as parents first to set a good example we can make a difference and turn those statistics around. All it takes is a little education, planning, and commitment to your family’s health. As both an R.D. and a mom, I hope to make it easier to get started.
6 Simple Strategies to Make Your Whole Family Healthier
Look at what your kids are eating.
Using a pad of paper, jot down two days of meal descriptions and compare it to the USDA guidelines. (If you have more than one child, just do one at a time so that you don’t get overwhelmed.) See where the areas of greatest concern lie, and begin filling in the gaps. If no one is eating leafy green vegetables start there. If sugary snacks are taking up too much of their calorie intake, focus on cutting that area back first.
Every week, chose a new healthy food to spotlight.
Make it a fun and exciting game for the whole family! Try using carrots as your first “food of the week”. Serve carrots at least three times a week and get creative with different variations. For example, carrots can be steamed as a side dish, eaten raw, blended into a smoothie, or shredded and baked into carrot muffins. Remind your kids that it takes time to develop a new taste for these foods, and that you won’t give up! Studies show that in most cases the constant exposure will cause them to start enjoying the new food.
Water, water, water!
It is so important that you and your family members all drink plenty of water, especially during warm summer months or during active sports participation. Forget the sugary juice and soda and instead serve a refreshing pitcher of water with True Lemon instead. Here are some good guidelines for how much water you need each day.
Everyone loves a rainbow, so why not bring colorful meals to the table?
Make a new rule at home: when planning meals be sure to include foods of at least three different colors. Not only is this appealing to the eye, but the wide array of rich colors in fruits and vegetables are related to their phytonutrients. A phytonutrient is a substance in plants that provide your body with a health boost, protecting it from environmental factors and cell damage. Here is a great list of colorful foods to begin incorporating into your healthy meals.
Get creative with exercise and have fun with it!
Did you know that jumping rope makes you grow taller at any age? That’s right! This activity stimulates bone growth as you do it. What a great incentive to get your kids moving more! Try setting a family record, and bring a jump rope along on your next vacation. Here are some more creative ways to make fitness a little more fun.
Trade in white foods for brown varieties wherever you can.
Swap out white breads, pastas, and rice for whole wheat and brown versions that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. These foods are helpful in maintaining a balanced weight and preventing diseases like colon cancer and diabetes. For a gradual transition, mix white and brown varieties together (such as white rice with brown rice) to let your family get used to the change. There will be less arguments about removing those sugary cereals as long as kids get to mix the whole grain variety into it. It’s all about compromise, right?
Remember that this is a battle worth fighting: it is for your family’s overall health, so that they can pass the good habits down to their families. Taking these simple steps will allow you to feel less guilty when your kids do have a treat or choose a lazy day inside. You will feel a sense of pride when your children grow into healthy adults, and make all the hard work worth it.
Make this the year when you move forward with good nutrition and fitness habits for all. Be assured that my family is moving right beside you!
Marlo Mittler, M.S. R.D.