A family enjoying a healthy meal outdoors

Healthy kids are grown in healthy homes. Your role as a parent or caregiver is to provide a healthy environment for your children, including a nutritious diet, healthy beverages, plenty of physical activity and minimal screen time. A healthy home benefits you and your health, too. Together, your family can be active, healthy and happy. Just start with these steps.

Tip 1

Serve healthy meals and snacks

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Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a nutritious diet for children and adults. For kids, they provide essential vitamins and minerals for proper growth and development. Fried foods should be avoided because they are high in calories and fat, and sugar-sweetened beverages should be limited as much as possible. Instead, serve children water or low-fat milk.

If children don’t take to fruits and vegetables right away, keep trying – research shows it can take up to 20 exposures before a child will accept the food. And remember to reinforce the healthy messages you teach the children by being a good role model – grab a glass of water instead of soda, eat fruits and vegetables with every meal, and avoid fried foods.

Involve kids in the process: Children, especially young children, often have very little say throughout their day – what they wear, what they do and where they go is usually determined by adults. Sometimes choosing to eat or not eat a food is their only chance to assert their independence. Learning to be independent is a key developmental step in childhood, but it doesn’t need to translate into a power struggle over eating healthy foods. When children are involved in the process – from shopping to cooking to serving the meal – they are more likely to try (and enjoy!) food when it’s on the table.

Tip 2

Eat meals as a family

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Coming together at least once each day for a meal as a family is a great way to encourage healthy eating behaviors in children. Kids who eat with their families are more likely to try new foods and eat more vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Mealtimes are also great opportunities for children to cook and serve meals, have pleasant conversations and use good manners.  Gather around the table during the meal, and be sure to turn off the television.

As a family you can also set goals for your eating habits, including how often you eat together as a family, and then track your progress on reaching your goals and improving the overall health of your family.

Tip 3

Cut down on sugary drinks

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Sugar-sweetened beverages are a large source of empty calories in many people’s diets. Over the course of a day, a month, and a year, those calories can add up quickly to unwanted weight. By switching your beverages to lower-calorie options, you can cut down on calories each day and pounds each year!

Instead of soda, drink water with a slice of lemon, lime or orange, or try seltzer water with a small splash of 100% juice. Instead of whole milk with dinner or in your coffee, try low-fat or fat-free milk – it still has the same nutritional value without the calories.

By paying attention to the sugar and empty calories and taking steps to replace those beverages with lower-calorie options, you will take giant steps toward improving your family’s health.

Tip 4

Grow a garden at home

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Planting a garden at home is a great way to teach children about how fruits and vegetables grow. Kids who garden are more likely to try the fruits and vegetables they grow, and gardens teach them important life skills like cooperation and patience in the process. If you don’t have space for a full garden, try container gardening or window boxes – they are kid-sized and can make your home look beautiful!

Tip 5

Sign up for the Dish+Dash

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The Dish+Dash is a great way for you to receive regular information via email of fun and easy ways to improve the health of your family. Tips include fun activities, healthy recipes, and reminders about upcoming community events.

Figuring out where to start on the path towards improving the health of your family can be overwhelming. Losing weight, being more active, changing old habits – these things don’t just change overnight. And that’s OK. Focus on taking small steps each day, and before long you’ll be on your way.

Sign up for the Dish+Dash here.

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