Keeping your family healthy is a big responsibility and it’s not always easy, especially with small children. However, encouraging lifelong healthy habits now will help foster optimal development and fewer illnesses long into the future.
Here are six ways you can make sure your family is healthy both in and out.
Expand your menu
Good nutrition starts with variety. Some foods are richer in certain vitamins, minerals and amino acids than others, and variety ensures that your family gets everything they need. Each time you go grocery shopping, commit to trying one new item from each food group and find healthy recipes that you can use them in. You can even get your kids involved by asking them to help you pick out an unfamiliar whole, fresh foods that they find interesting.
In particular, it’s recommended to place a heavy focus on fresh produce. The vast majority of US citizens consume less than the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables, which contributes to nutritional deficiencies and other health problems. Ideally, your family should be eating between 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day.
Give food another try
It’s normal for a person’s taste to change as they age. If your family has previously tried certain foods and didn’t like them, consider giving them another try at a later date. Yesterday’s mortal culinary enemy could be tomorrow’s favorite. You can also try combining them with other foods, using different seasonings or preparing them in different ways. For instance, if someone in your family hates steamed cauliflower, try roasting it with fresh herbs and butter.
Furthermore, look for fruits and veggies that are grown locally and in season. They tend to not only be higher in nutrients, but also taste sweeter and more flavorful. This is because the supply and transportation methods used to store-bought, non-local produce means it usually has to be harvested before it’s ripe and spends a lot of time in transit and storage. In the meantime, the more time produce spends off the plant, the more flavor and nutrition it loses.
Reduce sugar intake
The average American consumes around 57 pounds of added sugar in a year for a whopping 101,175 extra calories. Over consumption of sugar can lead to numerous health problems such as diabetes, obesity, mood disorders, poor concentration, low energy, and metabolic disorders. Digestive disorders, like leaky gut, are also a common effect of eating too much sugar.
Leaky gut occurs when the lining of the intestinal tract is weakened or compromised, usually due to poor diet. Small openings develop in the lining that allows pathogens, toxins, and undigested food particles to enter the underlying tissue, causing inflammation, food allergies, and other health problems. The informative article at https://microbeformulas.com/blogs/microbe-formulas/what-s-leaky-gut-and-how-do-you-fix-it provides more details about the causes of leaky gut and how to address them. Although some individuals may be genetically predisposed to the condition, over consumption of sucrose (processed sugar) in particular has been proven to exacerbate the symptoms. Those with leaky gut syndrome will notice changes in their digestive system function, such as chronic diarrhea, skin rashes, a poor immune system, nutritional deficiencies as well as heightened cravings for more sugar and carbs. Those who have been diagnosed with leaky gut syndrome can replace processed sugar with natural sweeteners such as pure Manuka honey, which has been anecdotally proven to alleviate symptoms.
The bulk of the average person’s sugar intake comes from things like soft drinks, candy, and baked goods. However, even if you cut these things out of your family’s diet, you may still be getting a lot of extra sugar from sources you might not think of. For this reason, it’s essential to read the labels of any products you buy for your family. That said, it’s still okay to enjoy the occasional dessert as long as it’s in moderation.
Spend less time in front of screens
On average, Americans spend more than six hours each day staring at phones, computers, and televisions. While some are okay and even necessary in some cases, such a high level of use is bad for overall health. For example, electronic devices should be kept out of bedrooms at night because the blue light emitted from screens prevents the production of melatonin, an essential hormone that tells the brain when it’s time to go to sleep. When this happens, you will find yourselves staying up much later, struggling to fall asleep and experiencing poor sleep quality.
You can also try reserving television for family time and keeping electronics put away during meals. Using this time to focus on one another and actually talks about your respective days will help your family foster stronger relationships, build trust and encourage real communication with one another.
Go outside more
It’s possible to have fun outdoors in all sorts of weather, and you can use these opportunities to achieve needed physical activity as well as family bonding time. In the snow, get the family bundled up and head outside to build snowmen, snow forts, and have snowball fights and warm up afterward with healthy homemade soup or stew. In the rain, everybody can have fun jumping in puddles and catching raindrops. On clear, sunny days, get everyone outside for a barbecue or some backyard games. At night, head out with flashlights, build a bonfire and go camping in the backyard.
Another family-friendly outdoor activity to consider is going for a short hike or a trip to the local park. Not only does this help your family stay active but it also helps with mood. Research shows that spending even a few minutes in nature lowers the risk of depression and increases positive feelings and overall contentment. Furthermore, ample exposure to natural light from being outside will help your kids grow strong and healthy by preventing vitamin D deficiency, which is a problem for 42% of the US population. Lack of vitamin D can cause mood disorders, lethargy, weak bones, slowed growth and increased susceptibility to illness and infection.
Make time for each other
Pick a time each day when everyone in your family is free from other obligations and make it about each other. Take this time to ignore your usual distractions and engage with one another in meaningful ways. Share how work or school went, talk about hobbies and interests and ask your kids about their social lives. This is also a great time for some old-fashioned group fun like board and card games, which can teach teamwork and cooperation.
One of the most important parts of looking out for your family’s overall well-being is to lead by example. Kids are influenced by the actions and habits of the adults they spend the most time with, so if you’re living an unhealthy lifestyle, this is what they’ll learn and eventually teach their own families. Meanwhile, if you make it a point to get plenty of exercise, spending quality time with those close to you, ensure healthy sleep patterns and eat a balanced, nutritious diet, this is what your kids will emulate and pass on.