It’s that time again; we are waking up from our holiday food comas looking at the year ahead of us with hope and excitement, setting a variety of New Year’s resolutions. For many, nutrition and the health of our families will be on our list of goals.
To help you along with your new year, here is our month-by-month guide to improving the health of you and yours.
January- Drop the Diet Talk
After our holiday indulgences, many of us start talking about just how “bad” we’ve been and how it’s diet time- and just like anything we say, our children are listening. This “good food/bad food” language can make children feel that they themselves are good or bad depending on what foods they choose. Remember that food is just food, it all provides our bodies with energy, and some foods just give us more health benefits than others. Try some new phrases such as energy foods, filling foods, everyday foods and sometimes foods for a healthier outlook on your choices.
February- Healthy Hearts
Celebrate Valentine’s Day by making a healthy heart change. A simple, yet effective change you can make for yourself and your family’s heart health is to lower your sodium intake. Your first step in the right direction is by stepping away from the salt shaker. Remove this condiment from your table & your kitchen. Also, check your nutrition facts label for sodium- try to keep the number down to ~300 mg per serving for better packaged items.
March- Gather Around the Dinner Table
In a review article from the American Academy of Pediatrics, children and adolescents who share family meals three or more times per week were found to be more likely to be in a normal weight range, have healthier diets and eating patterns as well as a decreased risk of eating disorders than children from families who do not regularly eat together. Even if it’s as simple as soup and sandwiches, plan to make family dinners a regular practice in your household.
April- Make Half Whole
Whole grains are a great source of fiber, vitamins and minerals that the refined grains just can’t stand up to. Make a goal of changing half of your grains to whole grains. Choose wheat bread, whole grain cereal, brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal for the majority of your starch choices to reap the benefits of these super foods. If your little ones aren’t going for the change-up; try some of the “white-wheat” versions out there, just check the nutrition facts label for 3 to 5 grams of fiber per serving for a good source.
May- Move It
Start regular physical activity as a family. Try after dinner walks, weekend hiking or afternoon bike rides to get the family moving. Emphasize the benefits of activity as sharing time together, having fun, improving mood and overall health rather than discussing weight or physical change as reasons to be active. As parents, it’s important to role model healthy behaviors and provide opportunities for physical activity to promote healthy behaviors for life.
June- Size It Up
When taking food from a package- check out the serving size. Portion out appropriate servings for yourself and your family- this gives the body the chance to feel full on the recommended amount of food. Remember- you can always go back for another serving if still hungry.
July- Power Off
Excessive screen time (TV, computer or video gaming) is associated with decreased levels of physical activity and increased risk of obesity. Set limits on tube time to 60 minutes or less per day and offer children non-screen based options such as playing outside, reading or arts & crafts time for some healthy alternatives.
August- Beverage of Choice
Cutting out empty calories from beverage choices like juice and soda can help promote healthy weights. For most families; soda is a special occasion drink choice and should stay that way. For children juice can be a regular companion. Try to limit your child’s intake to no more than 4 ounces per day as it can reduce appetite for tots and for older kiddos can lead to excess calorie intake. Try diluting juice with water for children for a gradual drop off.
September- Lunch Date
If your child frequents the lunch line- take the time to review menus with your little one at the beginning of the week to discuss choices. This will keep you informed about some of his or her regular choices. If you feel the lunches aren’t making the grade; pack a healthy alternative a few days per week to balance it out.
October- No Tricks for Treats
Create a healthy relationship with food for your child by not associating good behaviors with earning a food-related “treat.” It can be an easy go-to reward (or even a bribe on those tough days…) to promise children favored foods such as sweets, but in the long run it can lead to these treats being idolized and can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. Try some non-food based privileges in place of foods for a healthy reward alternative.
November- Mommy’s Little Helper
Getting children involved in simple meal time preparation and routine can pay off big for increasing children’s investment in the meal. When children have a role in meals it can help them feel more familiar with the foods being presented as well as build pride in the tasks they have accomplished- two things that can work in your favor when it comes to peaking your child’s interest in new foods. Try having your little ones wash veggies, tear lettuce, stir items with supervision or even just set the table for some easy meal time tasks that can not only benefit them, but also help you get the meal on the table!
December- Dessert Night
For many families, after dinner treats are part of the regular routine. It can also become a regular after dinner question and negotiation session from children that can leave parents open to using treats as rewards for if children have done well with dinner, or associated with good behaviors. If your family sweets are reaching upwards to 4 or 5 times per week or if you’re feeling the stress of nightly negotiations, it may be a good change to start designated dessert nights to avoid over-indulging. Plan for a regular weekday or weekend night (I’d recommend two times per week for most families) for family dessert night. On other nights, offer a choice between two snacks such as fruit or yogurt if children are still hungry.
Your journey to overall wellness is uniquely yours. It’s important to access the right support, and care as you set out to reach your goals. For more information on how you ignite passion for your own personal journey in life please go to www.metrowcc.com.
About Ashley Bade: By age 8, Ashley had sampled nearly every chicken finger, tender or nugget in New England. Her favorite “vegetables” were popcorn and potato chips. Her “green” foods included mint chocolate chip ice cream and green M&M’s. Now, Ashley is a successful dietitian practicing in the metro west, showing that finding a healthy eating balance is possible, even for the pickiest of eaters. Ashley helps clients navigate the confusing world of nutrition by providing the latest evidence-based recommendations. She supports and guides clients as they find a way of eating that feels well to them; allowing her clients to achieve their personal goals, optimize their health and attain maintainable change. Ashley’s passion is helping individuals and families find a personalized, healthy nutrition balance that not only works for them today, but for a lifetime.