Healthy family habits to pick up right now
By Gail Belsky
Getting your family to adopt a healthier lifestyle is hard -- and setting big goals makes it nearly impossible. Instead, work on making small changes that stick. Here, some easy ways to make healthy living part of your family's routine.
1. Get colorful.
Who's got time to calculate the calories, carbs and bad fats you bring home from the supermarket every week. Instead of focusing on numbers, pay attention to the colors in your cart. How much natural green do you see? How about red, orange and yellow? If the answer is "not much," go back to the produce aisle and grab a head of broccoli, a few red peppers and an avocado or two. Toss in some oranges, bananas and berries. Then return to the cookie or pasta aisle and put one of your boxes back on the shelf.
2. Shut it down.
Overstimulation from watching TV, answering email or chatting on Facebook right before bed is a huge sleep killer. The result: chronic yawning. Give your family the rest it needs with a rule that everyone must log out and shut off at least half an hour before bedtime -- even on weekends. Encourage the kids to spend that time in bed, relaxing with a book. But nothing too exciting, or they won't put that down either!
3. Ditch the car.
How many times a week do you drive less than a mile? Is it because you don't have the time to walk, or that you don't ever think of it? The next time you grab the keys to drive six blocks to your child's playdate or pick her up from school, check your watch. If you can spare 10 minutes, walk. You'll both get some exercise, plus extra time together. As an added bonus, you'll go green and save on gas!
4. Schedule downtime.
With our overscheduled lives, downtime doesn't come naturally anymore. Build in half an hour a day of quiet family time -- either after dinner or before bedtime -- and make it mandatory. Take dessert into the family room and listen to music, play a board game, or just sit and talk. Watching a favorite TV show works too, as long as you're all together.
5. Wash, wash, wash.
The No. 1 way to keep your family healthy, particularly during cold and flu season, is to wash hands -- even when you're not sick. Make sure soap is readily available in every bathroom at home, as well as the kitchen. Remind your kids as often as possible to wash up before meals, after using the bathroom or blowing their nose, and when they come in from outside. Eventually, your nagging will make regular washing a habit, not a chore.
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