It’s no secret that obesity in America is a growing epidemic. According to the CDC, more than 33 percent (78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese. What’s even more frightening is that we are also passing bad habits and poor health to our children. Roughly 20 percent of U.S. children and adolescents are obese, and the number continues to rise.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The first step in fighting obesity and creating a healthier nation starts inside the home, where families share healthy habits and responsibilities. If you want to help your family (and yourself) develop better health, try these tips to get everyone started.
Pack Lunches for the Week
Lunch is the most tempting meal at which to eat fast, unhealthy “convenience” foods. Adults leave the office to hit the drive-thru or eat high-calorie restaurant meals, and kids don’t have it much better in public schools. School systems across the country struggle to set a standard for healthy lunches, and it’s a major factor contributing to childhood obesity.
Make the effort to pack lunches for the whole family. Cook delicious, nutritious meals in bulk on Sunday afternoon and store them in the freezer so that they’re easy to grab as you go off to work or school during the week. There are plenty of blogs to walk you through meal-prep recipes, and these meals can be a lifeline for anyone tempted by fast food during the day.
Plan Outside Family Activities
If you usually spend evenings in the living room watching TV and movies, change up the location. Parks, museums (children’s museums for the young ones) and family rec centers are great ways to get out of the house and move around. If you live near a city, find one new place each week to visit as a family. Be sure to pack healthy snacks like almonds and dried fruit to resist eating out around town.
Give Everyone a Task
Families that work together stay healthy together. Give everyone in the house a role to fill. One person is in charge of meal-prep Sunday, one person is in charge of choosing a new activity and one person is in charge of tracking everyone’s goals. Giving each person a specific task helps them stay motivated and keeps everyone on track toward a healthier lifestyle.
Make It a Game
Smartphones and smartwatches, like the Apple Watch, make tracking fitness fun and easy. Apps track what you eat (simply add the meal and it figures out the calories and nutrients), steps you take and miles you run or ride. They also send friendly reminders to get up and move when you’ve been sitting for more than an hour. There are dozens of great apps to track every aspect of your fitness, and most of them are free.
No good deed should go unrewarded, so setting goals with celebrations is a great way to keep motivated and on track. When you meet a family health goal, celebrate by taking a trip to a favorite location or buying something new for the house. Anticipating a reward keeps good habits coming in and bad habits going out. Avoid food-related rewards, as these tend to involve unhealthy food and can get you off track. Instead, stick with activities or special family “presents” that everyone can enjoy together.
How do you help your family stay on track with a healthy diet and lifestyle? Share your own tips and tricks in the comments!
Thanks to Jim Burch for this great article! Says Jim, “Born and raised near St. Louis, I developed an obsession for baseball and the Cardinals. College days brought me south to Kentucky where I studied creative writing and journalism while working as an editor for the Murray State News. These days, I write diverse copy and hone my physical prowess at my CrossFit gym in Chandler, AZ. My specialties range from movies and television to consumer technology to health and fitness.”