Healthy Living Strategies for Busy Families : Family life is hectic for everyone. There is always so much to feel responsible for: working to pay the bills, overseeing the kids’ education, dealing with the housework, and much more.
However, most would ensure the family’s physical health and mental being as the absolute number 1 priority as a parent. And that’s a big responsibility to shoulder.
As a parent, you can feel like the juggler in the family circus, but if your family is not living as healthily as you’d like, you’re probably feeling like you’ve dropped a ball. It’s hard, right?
That’s because there’s actually a lot to consider when it comes to healthy living; it’s about eating well, getting enough sleep and exercise, and trying to ensure everyone is at their best, physically and mentally, at all times.
Here are five tips to help you get on top of it all:
1. Plan ahead
It’s so hard to eat healthily every mealtime when you are juggling a million and one jobs. It’s really tempting to cut corners and pick up take-out or convenience food. And then you feel guilty.
The only real solution is to plan ahead.
A trick for busy families is to have a four-week meal plan running on loop.
Here’s how it works: Sit down one evening and write down four weeks of meal ideas (you can repeat favorite meals within those four weeks if you wish). If you’re lucky enough to know your schedule early, you can plan the most straightforward meals for the nights when you have the least time. Try to squeeze in some batch cooking for the freezer, too, if you can.
There’s a hidden health benefit to planning ahead, too.
Now, you have the advantage that you can easily check the balance of food types over the weeks and months. Is your family getting enough fish, nuts, whole grains, green vegetables, and all the other essential food groups for children? You can now be confident that your meals meet your family’s nutritional needs.
This will understandably be a big task the first time you do it, but it’ll pay back the time later making shopping lists. Once your four weeks are up, tweak as necessary, and then reuse for another four weeks.
Does this still seem a little too regimented for you? How about having theme nights to save having to think of brand new ideas each week? Perhaps you can use leftovers for Mondays, fish for Tuesdays, pasta for Wednesday, etc. You can design a meal plan that works well for your family and your schedule.
2. Enjoy as many family mealtimes as possible
Family mealtimes are brilliant in so many ways.
Firstly, there is the chance to share news and enjoy each other’s company; this is golden time, uninterrupted, and without the distractions of televisions and smart phones.
But they are also a great opportunity to enjoy healthy food together, and to talk about healthy food choices with your kids in a really relaxed way.
It can be hard for busy families juggling both work and shared childcare. If finding time for family meals is tough for your family, try planning a month at a time. Seek out dates where everyone is free, and don’t be afraid to reschedule other items on the family calendar in order to prioritize a family meal.
And if evening meals are tricky to organize, try cooking up a healthy feast for a lunch, or even make a thing of a weekend breakfast.
3. Cook together, too
If you want to prep your kids for a lifetime of healthy eating, you need to give them the basic skills.
Most kids enjoy helping out in the kitchen, so try to get them involved where you can. If you like to steer clear of chaos, allow each of your children a separate opportunity to help you plan and create a meal together once a week or fortnight. It can be a great chance to spend some quality one-on-one time together.
Use this golden opportunity to talk about healthy eating, too.
4. Find ways to exercise together
Perhaps you feel as if you could all use some more exercise, or perhaps you’re feeling guilty about using up family time for sports.
When you’re a parent, getting to the gym can be really tricky without losing out on valuable family time. If both parents need to carve out gym time, and somebody needs to be at home with the kids, then you can end up feeling like passing ships in the night with your partner.
The solution to this is to find ways of exercising together. Ok, so if you are particularly goal-orientated when it comes to exercise and obsess over reaching personal bests, then you do probably not love the idea of running with an 8-year-old in tow.
So, some compromise is needed. Perhaps switch one or two of your gym sessions per week for some family exercise. Try to remember that what you lose in optimum training time is more than outweighed by the example you are setting to your kids and the improvements to their health.
If you have very young kids, you could try running with a purpose-built stroller, or hiking with baby in a back-carrier, or cycling with a child-seat or trailer attached.
If you have older children, you could enjoy family favorites together such as cycling or swimming. Or you could use this opportunity to try something new: indoor or outdoor climbing, trampolining or canoeing, for example.
Failing that, just regularly finding 20 minutes to kick a ball or shoot hoops together, perhaps after dinner and everyone has had time to rest, is a really positive step towards better health for all the family.
5. Have a great nighttime routine
Finally, the importance of the whole family getting enough sleep cannot be understated.
As a parent, you’ve almost certainly experienced poor sleep at some point, so you’ll know that lack of sleep can lead to little energy for day-to-day tasks and work, irritability and mood swings, sugar and caffeine cravings, poor food choices, and worse physical and mental health.
Sleep really is vital. A poor night’s sleep can easily undermine all the great work you are doing to get everyone eating well and exercising.
To encourage everybody to have a great night’s sleep, a bedtime routine is a must, for children and parents. Some screen-free wind-down time, a warm drink, a bath and some nighttime reading are all things which can help the body prepare for sleep.
Lots of parents already read to their kids at night, so you’ll be pleased that this habit has an added bonus for them, particularly for their mental health. Cuddling up for story time offers an opportunity for children to become comfortable and relaxed, and to have your undivided attention. This means it’s often a time when they turn to you for reassurance or help with things that are worrying them.
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