How Can Families Be Healthier?

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Involving the whole family is the best way to promote better eating habits and healthy activities for your kids.

A whole-family approach simply means that everyone — parents and kids alike — works together as a team to achieve good health and well being. As with any team, there's a leader or coach — and that's you!

  • Lead by example. Adult family members are important role models for healthy eating and exercise. Talk about why you eat fruit as a snack, take an exercise class, or go for walks.
  • Start 'em young. Don't wait until your child is at an unhealthy weight to institute good eating and activity habits. It's much easier to maintain a healthy weight than to lose pounds later.
  • Be active together. Make it usual for the family to be active, not sedentary. Being active as a family allows kids to expend energy in a positive way, and adults reap the health benefits, too.
  • Cook together. It may be impractical to do it every day, but invite kids into the process of preparing food. Little kids can learn math skills by measuring and they'll begin to understand the chemistry of cooking. They'll also gain an understanding of healthy ingredients.

    Older kids will enjoy having the authority to select and prepare foods they like and will be more likely to eat what they've made. It might even inspire them to make healthy choices on their own.
  • Eat together. Eating a meal as a family sends the right messages about nutrition. Kids will see their parents eating healthy food and may be inspired to try new foods. They will also come to see mealtime as a time for socializing and sharing. Parents get a chance to offer nutritious food, note their child's likes and dislikes, and tune in to their child's triumphs and troubles through conversation.

Family Goals Chart

If you're trying to build healthier family habits, a goal chart is a good way to keep score. A chart, posted in a prominent spot like the refrigerator, can remind family members to pay attention to eating and exercise habits.

Choose family goals, such as exercising every day and eating fruits and vegetables. Keep track of who meets their goals, and praise those who do. And when the whole family achieves the goals, do something fun together to celebrate.

Click here to print a family goals chart.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: June 2011

Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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