Feeling overwhelmed by all the nutrition and exercise directives out there? Try these simple tips to improve your family’s diet and physical activity level:
1. Reduce consumption of sports drinks. This is a pet peeve of many nutrition experts, who say people are deceived into thinking there is some nutritional benefit to these products. Furthermore, the size of the bottle for many sports drinks is actually two servings, not one. Substitute small amounts of fruit juice blended with sugar-free soda water for a refreshing drink when necessary.
2. Drink water instead of juice. Many children drink too much juice, which often substitutes added sugars with little fiber for real fruits and vegetables.
3. Make exercise fun. Don’t allow your child to sit on the couch just because he doesn’t make the select soccer team. Dance to your favorite music in your house, walk together and set goals for small improvements, such as increasing exercise time by a small amount each week.
4. Sneak healthy snacks in. Instead of waiting until the end of the day and loading the dinner table with an intimidating number of vegetables, make them available all of the time. Serve fruit salad with breakfast. This way, meeting the dietary guideline’s recommended daily servings is spread out over time.
5.Limit all “screen time.” Studies have linked TV watching with obesity, so families should cut back to one or two hours of “screen time” a day, which includes television and computer use. Don’t watch TV during dinner, and remove or closely monitor TVs in children’s bedrooms, experts recommend.
6. Shop together. Let children choose a new fruit or vegetable to try, which will expand their horizons and their consumption of a variety (a rainbow) of fresh foods. If you have a backyard, consider planting herbs and a few veggies - growing food is a great way to get kids to eat healthier.
– Alison O’Leary Murray
Updated August 2012