Proper nutrition and exercise are vital to keep your family healthy. A healthy lifestyle will also ensure your children are able to reach their full potential. You may be thinking that your family’s busy routines and strict schedules are legitimate excuses not to stay fit, eat well, and maintain a healthy lifestyle – this could not be further from the truth.
A healthy lifestyle isn’t about how much time you have, it’s about how well you use the time that is left. Parents are the number one source affecting the way children feel about living a healthy lifestyle. So, it is imperative that families make time to exercise together and eat healthier, so that it eventually becomes part of everyone’s routine.
Being Smart About Your Family’s Diet
Many people think that healthy eating is about eating tasteless and boring foods. But healthy eating is more about getting the right ‘mix’ of nutrition. You don’t have to sacrifice the foods you love. What you really need to do is simply practice “BMV” in your meals. This means going for Balanced meals, in Moderate amounts, and with a Variety of foods based on the Malaysian Food Pyramid.
Other things your family can do to achieve a healthier diet:
- Consume more fibre for healthy body weight, good digestion and a healthy heart. Your diet should contain 20-30 grams of dietary fibre each day. You can obtain the fibre you need by following the recommendations of the food pyramid, ie consume more legume products, fruits and vegetables.
- Reduce sugar, salt and fat/oil you use to prepare meals and be wary of the amount present in food products you buy for the family (Later, in another one of my articles “Using Food Labels to Make Healthier Food Choices” on page 15, I’ll explain how the family can make healthier choices when buying pre-packaged foods by reading and understanding nutrition labels).
- Try to prepare meals at home, at least once a day, where you can control the ingredients in the dishes and control the cooking method.
- Choose healthier cooking methods (e.g. steaming, stir-frying, braising, grilling, roasting, and baking) and try preparing vibrant and exciting-looking meals so that foods like vegetables appeal to your child.
- Avoid bad eating habits like overeating and eating late at night or too close to bed time.
- Limit intake of fast foods, takeout and foods high in fat/oil, salt and sugar.
- Eat together as a family more often – conversations during the meal provide opportunities for the family to bond, share, connect, and learn from one another.
Staying Active While Spending Time Together
Keeping the family active helps improve fitness, strength and flexibility. It helps everyone maintain a healthy body weight and generally helps us feel, think and learn better. Do fun physical activities together as a family so it becomes a habit overtime. It’s also a great way to spend some quality time together.
How to get everyone involved:
- Do the things everyone in the family likes doing together. It can be sports like football, playing tag or just going for a 20-minute stroll at the park.
- Get your children and your spouse to participate in household chores such as sweeping, mopping, vacuuming or washing dishes.
- Allow enough time for unstructured play. Kids can burn more calories and have more fun when left to their own devices.
- Join community runs/walks or other family events organised to get the family to spend time and be active together. These events are fun, you get to make new friends, learn new stuff and experience new things at the same time!
- Go to fun places like playgrounds, parks, open fields and public swimming pools.
- Impose a time limit of not more than one or two hours a day for activities such as watching TV, going online, and playing video games.
- Be active every day in as many ways as you can and incorporate more physical activities in daily life as a form of exercise. For example, choose to walk up the stairs, instead of taking the lift or escalator or park your car a distance away and walk to your destination.
Start laying the foundation for your child’s future health as early as possible. Chronic lifestyle diseases have their roots deep in our society today, and affect both adults and children. Though it is never too late to start living healthily, the early years are the best time to mould good eating habits and an active lifestyle. Nurture your family’s wellness by working together as a family to make healthy habits both easy and fun.