Man, raising kids is hard.
Before kids, we struggle to get ourselves to a point where we sort of feel like adults then BAM! Now we have to help someone else through the process. It’s like taking piano lessons and after struggling to learn your first song your teachers says, “OK, now you have to teach the class”.
You: “But I barely know how to do this myself!”.
Teacher: “Congratulations, it’s a girl!”
Adding the responsibility of our children’s health and well-being to a never ending adult list of obligations and expectations can be daunting. Difficult as it is, however, overwhelming data suggests that home is where health starts.
- Kids with at least one overweight parent are three times more likely to become overweight.
- Two overweight parents? Ten times more likely!
- Health behavior change interventions with youth have an extremely low success rate without at least one parents accompanying the behavior change.
- Health behavior change interventions with parents alone have been shown to improve kids’ nutrition, activity patterns, and body weight!
It appears to be pretty established that the “culture of wellness” we create in our own home is one of the most important factors for creating lifelong health in our children.
I grew up in a culture of wellness and chose a career path of helping others create the same in their homes. Despite undying commitment to the cause, my wife and I’s aggressive travel and work schedules pose a constant challenge to the time and energy needed to not only demonstrate, but cultivate a healthy, active lifestyle with our daughter.
Since health is a non-negotiable at our house, we’ve worked together to simplify, streamline, and make creating a healthy home as simple as possible. We are far from perfect, by the way. Screen devices, fast food, processed food, lazy afternoons and the like all exist at Casa de Klika.
However, they are merely passers-by, not residents.
Below I’m sharing five of the most significant “secrets” we’ve discovered (and some are even backed by research) that make creating a culture of wellness at home much simpler.
Secret #1: The Early Bird Gets Their Sanity
Admittedly, waking up early in the morning is a tough habit to start. However, the morning is often the only time of the day we adults “own”. This can be the absolute most selfish part of our day, otherwise known as “me” time.
Waking up early can also give us a significant head start so we don’t feel like we’re merely playing catch up all day. With more time in the morning, we’re more likely to do things that are healthy for us (exercise, meditate, etc.) and our kids (fix hot breakfast, pack a nutritious lunch, etc). When playing catch-up, everything is reactive and we lack the capacity to think rationally or logically. Bad decisions ensue.
Try it for two weeks. Challenge yourself to wake up 30-60 minutes earlier and see how than impacts your day. The first week, you’ll be tired, as your evening schedule takes time to adjust. After that, many find so many advantages, they stick with the new plan!
Secret #2: The Uni-Meal
This suggestion comes without judgement. It’s merely a way we’ve found we can streamline one of the most time-consuming aspects of creating a healthy home: Making meals.
Different families will do it different ways, but cooking one meal for adults, then cooking “kid food” for kids creates a complicated, time-consuming meal time ritual. It can also form a foundation of poor nutritional habits that last a lifetime.
It’s true that kids respond to food that is sweet and/or salty. They like bland, easy to chew textures and will often default to a diet of primarily carbohydrates. Their palate is undeveloped, so their capacity to taste outside of sweet and salty is limited.
Their palate, however, is constantly exchanging and imprinting information with the brain. A diet catered to a sweet and salty palate tells the brain “food should be sweet and/or salty”. Research suggests that this can have long-term ramifications on a child’s eventual diet as an adult.
While kids won’t devour the meats, vegetables, and grains we enjoy as adults, when it’s the food available, they will eat it. Behavioral research has observed that even “picky eaters” will eventually learn to eat what is put in front of them.
Secret #3: Simple Shopping
Eating is a major time, energy, and money consumer in our homes. We have to get the food, pay for the food, prepare the food, then eat the food. That’s not to mention cleaning up after cooking, etc.
Despite the fact that attaining food is unimaginably easier than it was for our ancestors, it can still be a major time suck in our busy adult schedule.
Consolidating shopping to one day per week can save hours and prevent from hunger and panic-based impulsive junk food buys. Keep it simple. The most hectic week nights are often Monday-Thursday, so make sure to cover those bases with a meat, vegetable, and starch. One bag of spinach is usually two nights of salad.
Pre-chopped veggies lose a bit of freshness but make up for it in convenience. Roasting cauliflower, broccoli, or just about any other veggie in the oven at around 400 degrees with a little olive oil and salt makes them delicious.
Most grain-based starches take a few minutes in the microwave (these aren’t “bad” for you, but you may not need them every night). For protein, pick up a type of fish, a type of beef, a type of chicken, then one more selection. You may decide a “repeat” is necessary.
If you can go organic, do it. If not, no big deal. While making the initial focus shift to health in the home, don’t get caught up in the abundant nutritional dogmas. The longer you focus on nutrition, the more you’ll be able to form your “belief system” towards the right type of food.
Learn how to create different tastes with different seasonings instead of reinventing the food dinner wheel with hard to find exotic food selections. If you like to cook more interesting stuff, make it a family event on the weekend!
Secret #4: Table Time
Research suggests that families who eat their meals together eat more fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-dense food. Additionally, one of the greatest contributors to the consumption of excess calories during “unconscious eating” is watching a screen.
Something as simple as eating dinner together without outside distractions (phones, televisions, etc.) increases the likelihood of healthy behavior with nutrition for the entire family.
Secret #5: Active Together
Being physically active is far more wide-reaching than merely “working out”. When we are physically active with our kids, this helps them form a positive attitude towards physical activity.
Once again, however, our time and energy as adults is limited. Being active with our kids may come down to walking the dog after dinner, or playing a quick game of catch in the yard. My wife and I usually try to spend 10-15 minutes outside with my daughter after we are all home from work and daycare. We’ll then try to take the dog for a walk after dinner.
On the weekend, we like to start our days with something active, usually combining a hike or run with a breakfast out at one of our favorite places. Exercise is part of a fun tradition, not a punitive measure.
Whether it’s a walk or even a trip to the park, being active with our child can improve our health as well. In order for this to happen, we may need to suspend our phone use for a few minutes. Remember, our kids are only young once. When they eventually grow up and leave home, we won’t yearn for more screen time.
When arriving home from work, try to avoid the couch or chair until after your kids have gone to bed. This not only decreases the dangerous amount of time we sit during the day, it helps us keep our inertia to inspire our kids!
Of course, every family is different in regards to ages, as well as knowledge, attitudes and experience with healthy behaviors. It’s not about creating perfection. Just give these simple secrets a try in order to create a happy, healthy, active culture of wellness at home!