Today's guest blogger is Rob Danoff, DO, a family physician and program director of the Family Medicine and Combined Family Medicine/Emergency Medicine Residency Programs at Aria Health.
A new year presents a time for a fresh start. Do you want to serve your family more fruits and veggies? Be more active? Or simply improve your child's general health?
While there are lots of options to choose from, busy school and extracurricular schedules may make it seem impossible to stick with even one new resolution. But don't let that keep you from making small improvements to your family's health and wellness. Here are some resolutions to make that will help you to take charge of your family's health in 2016.
Make sure the little ones get enough zzzs
We live in a tired society, but sleep is critical to our children's growth and wellbeing. When children don't get enough sleep, they can't focus at school, have difficulty learning and retaining new information, and may change from your happy and pleasant child to one that is hyper or moody. Set a strict bedtime depending on your child's age, and make sure they get at least nine hours of sleep each night. This simple change in routine will make a huge difference in their ability to learn, concentrate and focus at school, and will help to improve their mood and health.
Don't skip breakfast
People of all ages should start the morning with a healthy breakfast. Those who eat protein and healthy carbohydrates with fiber in the morning have more energy and are more productive at school or work. And, while you may need a strong cup of coffee to get you moving in the morning, start with water to hydrate and avoid sodas and fruit flavored drinks to reduce calories from sugar while avoiding added preservatives, artificial ingredients and food colorings.
Increase family movement
If you're concerned about your children's level of activity, remember that a healthy lifestyle starts with the parents. Encourage greater activity by getting the entire family involved. Consider monthly contests while using a step counter (pedometer) to keep track of each of your family members' steps throughout the month. Let the winner pick out his or her own healthy award, such as new walking shoes or a favorite fruit smoothie. Think about all the family-fun activities you can participate in, such as hiking, gardening or playing a game of backyard football. If you have a dog, implement the four-legged weight loss plan by going to the dog park on the weekends or taking daily walks. All that moving around will add up, and each step of activity is a "step toward better health!"
Cook with the kids
I've seen that youngsters are more open to trying new foods when you involve them in the cooking process. Take them with you to the grocery store and let them pick out fruits, vegetables and nuts (if they are not allergic) that interest them. Depending upon their age, invite them to watch or help you cook with their ingredients of choice so they feel involved in the meal. This also promotes more family time as an added bonus.
Set limitations for watching television, texting on the phone and playing video games. Our society sits far too often! We don't want our children to become "couch potatoes" by spending less time moving and more time relaxing and snacking. These behaviors can increase the risk for obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Keep things positive
Children don't like to hear what they can't do, so focus on being supportive and positive, and let them know what they can do. Celebrate their successes to help children and teenagers develop a good self-image. Stop negative self-talk as well – especially in front of the kids!
Don't forget about mental health
Mental health is just as important as physical health. There are so many activities your children can pick up to keep the mind healthy and stimulated, such as reading, learning a new language, playing an instrument or starting a new hobby.
Leave time to "just be"
Make sure your children are not over-scheduled with daily activities. Unstructured play time is important, as this allows little ones to use their imagination and explore their creativity, while also decreasing their stress levels. And while you are doing this for your child, try to do this for you, too.
For many of us, the most successful resolutions are ones that decrease stress and are easily included in everyday life. Focusing on making small lifestyle adjustments can make all the difference in your family's lives. Parents – the healthier lifestyle "remote control" is in your hands. By choosing the healthy options, you can make 2016 the best one yet for you and your family.