Parents and caregivers can set a great example for the whole family by creating a healthy environment at home. Making fruits and vegetables part of every meal, limiting treats, walking and playing, even shopping together — any combination of steps can add up to make a real difference and help build healthy habits for life.
1) Healthy Snacks!
A busy family can benefit from food that’s nutritious and easy to eat on-the-go, like fresh fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are a natural source of energy and give bodies the nutrients they need to keep going.
Fruits and vegetables are great sources of many vitamins and minerals, and can help prevent chronic diseases. Try eating fruits and vegetables of different colors to give your family a wide range of valuable nutrients like fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamins A and C. Some examples include green spinach, orange sweet potatoes, black beans, yellow corn, purple plums, red watermelon, and white onions. Encourage children to try new fruits and vegetables regularly.
Children and families tend to consume more of the foods that they have easy access to. Keep fruits and vegetables within reach and you’re more likely to make healthy choices.
Tip: Replace a candy dish with a fruit bowl.
Tip: Store especially tempting foods, like cookies, chips, or ice cream, out of immediate eyesight, like on a high shelf or at the back of the freezer. Move the healthy food to the front at eye level.
Ideas to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables Everyday
Eat fruit raw to enjoy its natural sweetness.
Canned or frozen fruits and vegetables are good options when fresh produce is not available. Be careful to choose those without added sugar, syrup and cream sauces.
Choose whole fruit over fruit drinks and juices. Fruit juices have lost fiber from the fruit. It’s better to eat the whole fruit because it contains the added fiber that helps you feel full.
2) Make Physical Activity a Part of Your Family’s Routine
The best way to increase physical activity in your family life is for you to be a part of it. Activities should be fun and something that the whole family can do together. Kids need at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, but it doesn’t have to be all at one time. Short walks, active chores, walking the dog—it all adds up! Make physical activity a project that the whole family can enjoy together. Encourage everyone to think of fun things to do to get off the couch, away from TV and computer screens and get moving!
Establish goals that you and your family can achieve. The family can come up with activity and set goals together. In the first few weeks, you may not achieve every goal, but if you stick with it, physical activity will become a part of your family’s routine.
The best way to begin is to schedule time for physical activity. Start by identifying at least three 30-minute time slots this week for activities like taking a walk, playing sports or doing active chores. Choose times of the day or week when everyone is most likely to stick to the schedule.
Add it up
Download the Let’s Move Family Calendar and personalize it for your family. Post it on the refrigerator or somewhere the whole family can view it and track progress. Remember, every little bit counts.
3) Plan a Healthy Menu
Get children involved in planning and cooking.
Eating nutritious meals in right-size portions will help children and families be healthier and will provide energy to power through the day. Preparing healthy meals doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive; it just takes planning. Get your children involved in planning and cooking and you’ll be surprised by how easy making healthy changes can be.
Plan to eat healthy
Sit down as a family and plan your healthy meals for the week, then make a shopping list and stick to it! Healthy decisions start at home and planning ahead can improve your health while saving you time and money. Have everyone in your family make suggestions for the shopping list. Kids (and adults too!) are more willing to try new foods when they help pick them.
Cut back on sugar
Reducing sugar intake for your family is easier than you think. Sodas are liquid sugar sources that don’t fill us up. Substitute water for soda and juice with added sugar and your family will be one sip closer to better health.
Ideas for healthier drinks
• Switch to low-fat milk or 100% fruit juice for a beverage with vitamins and minerals.
• Switch to water or diluted 100% fruit juice.
Tip: A serving size for sodas, sports drinks, fruit drinks and smoothies fits in a small coffee cup.
4) Reduce Screen Time and Get Active
Health experts say computer and television time at home should be limited to one to two
hours or less per day, unless it’s work or homework-related. The time spent in front of the
screen could be better spent being more physically active (and avoid TV entirely for kids
under two). Parents and caregivers should set rules that limit the amount of time children spend on the computer, watching TV and playing video games to reduce screen time.
Talk to Your Family
Explain to children that it’s important to sit less and move more in order to stay healthy.
Set Screen Time Limits
Create a house rule that limits screen time to one to two hours every day. More importantly, enforce the rule.
Set a Good Example
You need to be a good role model and limit your screen time to no more than two hours per
day, too. If your kids see you following your own rules, they’re more likely to do the same.
Log Screen Time vs. Active Time
Track how much time your family spends in front of a screen, including things like watching TV and movies, playing video games, and using the computer (outside of school or work). Then look at how much time the family spends doing physical activities and you’ll get a sense of what changes need to be made. Download the Let’s Move screen time log to track how much time everyone is spending in front of a screen.
Make Screen Time = Active Time
When you do spend time in front of the screen, do something active. Stretch, practice yoga poses, walk on a treadmill or lift weights. Challenge the family to see who can do the most push-ups or jumping jacks during commercial breaks.
5) Organize a School Healthy Team
The school environment strongly impacts the behavior, health and well-being of children.
Parents can help schools create an environment that will encourage a child’s overall academic success by taking action.
Join the School Health Team
All schools that receive support from the USDA are required to develop wellness policies
that address school food service and physical activity. Many schools have working groups dedicated to improving the school’s health programs and policies. Although these working groups go by different names across the country—School Health Team, School Health Council, School Health Advisory Council, Wellness Council—parent members play a crucial role in creating a healthful school environment.
Call your child’s school and talk to the principal or the PTA president to find out if the school has an active health team. If it does, learn how you can become a member. If the school doesn’t have a health team, help organize one.
Identify the Current Status
The School Health Index (SHI) is a self-assessment and planning tool that can be used to
identify the strengths and weaknesses of health policies and programs and develop an action plan for improving student health. Visit CDC’s website to learn more about implementing the School Health Index at your child’s school.
Understand “Competitive Foods”
Foods and beverages provided through school breakfast, lunch and afterschool snack
programs must meet certain nutritional rules to receive federal money. However, many
schools also sell foods outside of the USDA school meals–in the cafeterias, snack bars,
andnvending machines–that are not subject to federal rules. These foods are called
“competitive foods” because they compete with school meals. Children can purchase nonnutritious foods in place of the USDA school meal.