Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Jenna Em


10 Ways to Get Your Family Healthy

Posted: 01/18/2013 7:58 am

This year I resolved to get my family more healthy and active, by employing 10 simply strategies. I had taken inventory of my family's daily nutrition, and realized that there was room for improvement in both the quality and quantity of food that my family consumed. And assessing my family's fitness level, it was clear that we could all do better in terms of increasing our daily physical activity. So here are the 10 simple strategies that I implemented this year, to get my family healthy and active!

1. Add a Veggie, Add a Fruit! -- This is such a simple step, but has been important in building my family's nutrition level. What this strategy entails is adding at least one veggie and one fruit to every meal that my family consumes. It goes something like this: boneless skinless chicken breast, with a side of green beans, and cantaloupe for dessert. Just by adding this strategy to each family meal, it ensures that my family gets at least six servings of veggies and fruit per day.

2. There's No Place Like Home! -- Any way you slice it, homemade food is healthier. Whether it's a homemade soup, stew, roast or simple sandwich. By making meals at home instead of purchasing heavily processed or take-out food, I control the salt, sugar, fat and preservatives going into the family meal! This strategy has allowed my husband and I plan out the nutrition of each family meal, and make it from scratch most days.

3. Foods that Pack a Punch! -- In my quest to make my family healthier, my strategy has been to regularly serve foods that "pack more punch" (those higher in vitamins and minerals than the average food). Some of these widely available foods have been broccoli, carrots, blueberries, mangoes, salmon, chicken, liver, and beans, to name just a few. I've had no objections from my kids, as I've been sure to offer a mix of their favourites!

4. Snacking Strategically -- I found that my kids would always gravitate toward sweets after supper time. They were programmed to believe that if they finished their dinner and displayed good behaviour, then they'd be rewarded with a treat. So I've changed that mindset by implementing dessert a few times weekly, and not necessarily offering it after dinner time. If the kids are still snack-ish in the evening, my husband and I break out healthier choices like a sliced apple or pear.

5. Portion control -- Serving large portions is not just bad for the body due to the excess, but it's also more costly, and can create food waste when the portion is too big to manage (especially among kids). So, I've cut down on portion size for my entire family, offering an extra serving for those who are still hungry after the meal. This strategy has been successful in combating overeating in my household, and has proven that moderation is key!

6. All For One, and One For All! -- It has been wonderful that my husband and I've embarked on this health and wellness journey together, so our vision of a healthier family is aligned. I'm aware that getting one's family onboard to eat better and exercise more regularly is not always easy, but having such a support system in place really helps contribute to the success of such a strategy!

7. The Family That Plays Together, Stays Together! -- The Canadian winter can be long and cold, but I strategized to get out and active with my family this year -- regardless of the weather. When we had snow, this meant tobogganing as a family; and with the milder weather we've taken long walks together, albeit bundled up in parkas and snowsuits! My aim has been to get 60 minutes of family exercise every day.

8. Housework Hijinks! -- Although this may not be the most popular option, one of my strategies has been to get my family more active around the house via housework. Don't underestimate the power of vigorously vacuuming, hefting laundry baskets up and down the stairs, and scouring the bathtub! For rock hard abs, get the kid's to pick up their toys and books off the floor -- standing in an upright position! Organize them into two teams, and it becomes a game -- with the added bonus of a cleaner house!

9. Mall Walking! -- I find that mall walking can be a good source of exercise for my family, especially in the colder winter months. My strategy has been to walk the mall's entire circuit, in order to stretch out the exercise. Did you know that many malls open early and have a Mall Walking Programme? It's a great way to stay fit for free in the extreme Canadian climate.

10. A Choice to Be Active & Healthy! -- It's a choice to be active or remain sedentary. Let's face it, it's easier for the family to be sedentary in the harsh Canadian winter, and choose to hibernate until the spring. It's also easy to choose unhealthy comfort foods during these cold, long days, instead of nutritious food choices. However, good health isn't just a number on the scale; it's an elevated mental and physical state. And with strategies like these in place, it's a choice you can "actively" make for your family!

Have you followed through with any resolutions this year to eat better and stay more active? Please leave a comment below!

LOOK: 10 of the healthiest (and tastiest) snacks to munch on in between meals

Loading Slideshow...
  • Edamame

    <strong>THE GOOD NEWS:</strong> Edamame is full of <a href="http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=56288">protein and fibre.</a> <strong>SNACK TIP:</strong> Buy frozen edamame beans and keep them in your office freezer, says registered dietician <a href="http://www.eatingforenergy.com/">Diana Steele of Eating For Energy in Vancouver, B.C.</a> Pop them in the microwave and add cherry tomatoes for a quick and wholesome snack.

  • Cucumbers And Low-Fat Cheese

    <strong>THE GOOD NEWS:</strong> Cucumber is packed with vitamin K (needed for strong bones) and low-fat cheese is full of calcium. <strong>SNACK TIP:</strong> Steele recommends making mini cucumber sandwiches by taking low-fat cheese and turkey and wedging them in between two slices of cucumbers — the kids will also love this one.

  • Fruit Smoothies

    <strong>THE GOOD NEWS:</strong> Low calories and tons of fresh fruit. <strong>SNACK TIP:</strong> Start a smoothie club at work. Steele recommends having one person make smoothies at the office for everyone in the club once a week. Keep this role rotating and try flavours like mixed berries and tropical fruit.

  • Apple And Peanut Butter

    <strong>THE GOOD NEWS:</strong> Apples can <a href="http://www.besthealthmag.ca/eat-well/nutrition/15-health-benefits-of-eating-apples">boost your immune system</a> and natural peanut butter is full of protein. <strong>SNACK TIP:</strong> Dip sliced apple pieces in plain Cheerios for a crunchy snack.

  • Trail Mix

    <strong>THE GOOD NEWS:</strong> Eaten in portions, homemade trail mix can be <a href="http://www.myfitnesstrainer.com/free_fitness_library/p112/trail_mix_healthy.php">packed with fibre,</a> according to MyFitnessTrainer.com. <strong>SNACK TIP:</strong> For kids, Steele recommends making a homemade trail mix with seeds and dried fruits (avoid nuts because of allergies) and for yourself, add in popcorn or even whole wheat pretzels.

  • Muffins

    <strong>THE GOOD NEWS:</strong> When made at home, muffins are low in fat and packed with healthy oats and dried fruits or vegetables. <strong>SNACK TIP:</strong> No, we're not talking about the store-bought kind or the sugary ones you pick up from a bakery. If you still want to snack on muffins, Steele suggests making a batch of zucchini pumpkin muffins. <a href="http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=1324023">Check out a recipe here</a>.

  • Tortilla

    <strong>THE GOOD NEWS:</strong> If you are buying tortillas from the store, avoid ones with excessive salt, sugar and corn, according LiveStrong.com. For the most part, homemade tortillas are not as bad as the store-bought kind. <strong>SNACK TIP:</strong> Take a whole wheat tortilla and spread almond butter on top. For an extra nutritional boost, wrap it around an banana. This is the perfect afternoon snack, Steele says.

  • Greek Yogurt

    <strong>THE GOOD NEWS:</strong> Greek yogurt is a great source of <a href="http://www.sheknows.com/health-and-wellness/articles/961123/health-benefits-of-greek-yogurt"> calcium, protein and probiotics</a> (which is good for your digestive system), according to SheKnows.com. <strong>SNACK TIP:</strong> Mix berries or granola with a cup of sugar-free Greek yogurt, Steele says.

  • Apple Sauce

    <strong>THE GOOD NEWS:</strong> Apples in general have been known to <a href="http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/is-applesauce-healthy.html#b">prevent types of cancer and sugar-free apple sauce is a great fibre booster</a> in the morning, according to FitDay.com. <strong>SNACK TIP:</strong> Sprinkle crushed graham crackers over sugar-free apple sauce.

  • Popcorn

    <strong>THE GOOD NEWS:</strong> Forget butter and salt, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/01/30/healthy-popcorn-recipes_n_1242564.html">making popcorn in an old-fashioned pot over the stove with seasoning and a touch of oil can actually be a healthy snack</a>. <strong>SNACK TIP:</strong> For a good evening snack, mix over-the-stove popcorn with flax seed oil and a bit of your favourite seasoning.


Follow Jenna Em on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@SnyMed