How to keep your whole family healthy
Establishing a healthy lifestyle as a family when your children are young can be beneficial as these healthy habits will stay with your children throughout their life. Children imitate their parents so we must set a good example. Starting young means that they reduce their risks of many chronic medical conditions and obesity later in life.
Making time for a healthy lifestyle can seem overwhelming, especially with our busy lives but a few small changes can make a huge difference. Start small, don’t overwhelm yourself by making multiple changes and it will be a lot easier for everyone.
Exercise – exercising together as a family is beneficial to everyone. Simple changes such as parking further away when you go to the store or work and walking to school are easy to implement. Take stairs instead of the elevator and incorporate hiking, biking or swimming into your weekend activities. Family time does not have to be in front of the TV, make it fun for everyone. Go to the beach and play football, kayak, stand up paddle board. You and your children won’t feel like you are working out if you are having fun!
Eating healthy – This is probably more difficult for busy mums with fussy children. Making healthy, fresh food is time consuming and expensive. Simple tips such as growing your own vegetables and getting your children involved with cooking can encourage our little ones to eat fruits and vegetables. Hiding vegetables in sauces is an easy way to get our children to eat them, pizza and pasta sauce are the simplest, just use your blender so they can’t see them.
Choose whole grain and avoid sugary drinks, stick to water and avoid processed food as much as possible. Remember there is a big difference between a snack and a treat. Choose nuts and seeds, crudites and popcorn instead of sweet treats like cakes and chips and reserve these for special occasions or the weekend. Don’t forget you must eat your fruit and vegetables too so your kids can learn from you.
A good night’s sleep is essential for children. Infants require 12-16 hours at night, toddlers 11-14 hours, preschoolers 10-13 hours younger school children 9-12 hours and teens 8-10 hours. Sometimes children will fight sleep or complain they can’t get to sleep. Avoid screens at least 1-2 hours before bedtime and have them read a book to you or you read to them to help them get into a routine.
Screen time can be very detrimental to a child’s physical and mental development so monitor the time they spend in front of the TV or iPad and make sure they are watching good quality programs when they are allowed it. Parents again need to be a good role model for this so make sure they don’t see you on your phone or computer all the time and have screen free times together as a family.
Be proactive with you and your family’s healthcare. See a doctor regularly and make sure your children are up to date with their vaccinations, including your yearly flu vaccine. Adults should be getting their screening tests done on time and treat any conditions that may arise. Many families take regular vitamins tablets but the best way to ensure you are getting all your vitamins is to eat a good balanced diet and don’t forget to eat the rainbow! Generally, if you do have a healthy diet then vitamins are not required.
However certain medical conditions, diets (such as vegetarian or vegan), pregnancy and if you have been diagnosed with a deficiency may be required to take vitamin supplements, however, vitamin D supplements are recommended by the American Academy of Paediatrics for infants and children. If you are high risk for vitamin D deficiency – darker skin tone, over the age of 65, bed bound, or you cover yourself when you are outside as well as certain medical conditions such as kidney or bowel disease – It is also a good idea to take regular vitamin D. If you are unsure of what vitamin supplements you should take, then speak to your doctor who can advise you on what would be the best supplements for you and your family.
If you find yourself struggling to get your family on board, remember that modeling healthy behaviours is a good place to start. You may not be able to make your family change, but you can start on your own wellness journey. Once they see the changes you are making, chances are they will want to jump on board too.
Dr Ruhil Badiani
Family Physician at Cornerstone Clinic