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How can I improve my family's health?

You can work to improve the health of your family in many ways, first by practicing healthy eating habits. Incorporate healthy home-cooked meals that include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats or fish, and healthy snack items. Another by-product of home-cooked meals is sitting down and eating as a family, which is great for the mental health of a family as a whole. Next, work on getting everyone moving. Children should have at least 60 minutes of active or outside playtime every day, and adults should shoot for a goal of 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. So-called “screen time,” which means time spent in front of the computer, TV, or video games, should be limited to one hour a day. Last, it is important to visit your doctor annually for routine health checks and in order to ensure vaccines are up-to-date.
Toby Smithson
Nutrition & Dietetics

Simply sitting down for a family meal can do wonders! Studies show family meals improve the behavioral and emotional health of children. Also, families tend to eat more balanced and healthful meals when they eat together. Parents can make meal times like a fun game by letting kids in on the preparation. Assigning your children to mix a fruit salad or sprinkle cheese on their pasta will make them feel like they’re a part of the culinary magic.

Dr. Andrea Pennington, MD
Integrative Medicine
I am on a crusade to eradicate childhood obesity and diabetes. For me, it's more than my profession, it's my personal mission.

Here are my top five strategies for a family health makeover.

1. Take back the kitchen. Parents have given away control of the kitchen to their kids, to food manufacturers, to fast-food restaurants and to their work schedules. Parents need to take back the kitchen and eliminate disease-causing, fat-stimulating foods.

If you want your kids to be happy, healthy and successful in life, nourish them well. This means educating yourself about what types of foods you should always have on hand. Learn how to prepare your kids' favorites in healthier ways. Encourage your children to be a part of the process. Allow them to shop with you, read the labels, find new recipes together and cook together.

2. Institute a mealtime routine. Parents need to consistently control what and when their kids are eating. Children can learn to eat better when they are fed consistently, just like when they were babies! By providing healthy, easy options for meals and snacks throughout the day you ensure that their blood sugar level stays steady, producing better moods, concentration and energy.

Insist that the family come together to eat most nights of the week -- or at least once per week! Not only does eating together as a family help with maintaining a healthy weight, it also promotes greater self-awareness and self-mastery.

3. Stock up on healthy snack items. Parents need to be sure to have Mother Nature's original "fast foods" on hand at all times -- unsalted nuts, fresh or frozen fruit, yogurt, cottage cheese, granola, carrots, etc.

4. Insist on physical activity. Help to create opportunities for your child to have at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. It is best for kids to do it with the entire family, but even for those parents working two jobs, they must insist that their kids walk around the house, the neighborhood, jump rope or whatever.

5. Get a medical evaluation. You must determine whether your child is healthy or not and whether she or he is in need of more than just basic nutrition. It is important for your child to develop a relationship with healthcare providers in a consistent, nonthreatening and supportive way. The more that children recognize what is healthy and what is sick, the more responsibility they will take in maintaining their well-being.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.