How do you manage school, work, kids and maintain healthy habits? The best way to do this is as a family. Remaining consistent in your habits—together—can be difficult, but it’s the best way to set your family up for success with a solid, healthy foundation.
Here, I’ll give you a few tips on how you can incorporate simple healthy habits into your family’s busy life.
1. Movement matters
The biggest complaint I hear from people is, “I don’t have time.” I tell my patients to make note of and write down when they have free time. Most people find this is either in the morning or evening. Either one is fine—what’s important is building a routine.
Morning and evening are great times because you can get exercise in while the kids are asleep. These times can allow you to do your workouts with the least amount of distraction. If you find this does not work for you, then consider lunchtime workouts.
- See if you have a park, parking lot, sidewalks or gym near your house or work. You can also walk inside your building.
- Take the stairs as a means of “exercise.” Race your kids to the top if you’re feeling competitive.
- If you are lucky enough to have an hour lunch break, then you can do 30 minutes of eating with rest and 30 minutes of exercise.
- You do not need a gym to work out. You can even work out from home with free online apps or YouTube videos.
- See what neighborhood events are available like basketball, soccer, tennis and football.
- Plan a family field day of sports activities at the park.
- Go as a family to unique activities such as karate, zumba or dance lessons.
- If you find yourself binge-watching a show with your family, take a break during commercials or before the next episode to do jumping jacks.
2. Healthy food (and a healthy relationship with food)
I get it. It is easier to get fast food. You don’t have to prep or wait for cooking time. But consider this—in the long run, eating fast food will bring down your energy and worsen your family’s overall health. Is that really easier?
- Consider signing up for delivery healthy food services. This will cut down on grocery shopping and prep work.
- Have you heard the saying, “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail?” Write down what foods you want to eat for the week and make a grocery list from there. Meal prepping can simplify your life.
- Eat a salad for one meal a day.
- Involve the kids in what you are cooking and eating. It is important for them to normalize healthy eating and to be in touch with what they’re eating and how it’s good for them.
- Go to a cooking class or a nutritionist as a family in order to get some easy and fun meal tips.
- Mix vegetables into your sauce or smoothie to help get all food groups, especially for picky eaters.
- Avoid using too many processed or canned foods, as they can have high hidden sugar content.
- Reorganize your pantry. Put the “unhealthy” foods in the highest spot in the pantry. This will make it more difficult for you and your family to access those food daily.
- Remember, you don’t have to eat healthy every moment of every day. Acknowledge that it’s good to treat yourself sometimes. Make time for family ice cream nights or order pizza for family game night every once in a while, and don’t stress about it.
3. Make sleep a priority
For adults, it is important to get 7-8 hours of sleep. Lack of sleep can have a significant impact on your overall health, mood, energy levels and risk for some chronic diseases. Make sure you and everyone in your household are getting enough uninterrupted sleep.
If you’re still feeling tired despite getting adequate sleep, then contact your primary care doctor for help. This could be a sign of sleep apnea, depression, anxiety, overactive bladder or other sleep disorders.
My top tips for healthy sleep:
- Set the thermostat at a low temperature.
- Use blackout curtains to make sure every bedroom is dark.
- Set a household screen time cutoff and stick to it. I recommend putting phones, TVs and any other screens away and out of sight at least 30 minutes before bed.
- If your schedule allows, try to exercise earlier in the day, as exercising too late in the evening can cause sleep problems.
- Avoid eating within two hours before bedtime.
- Try to stick to a consistent sleep routine for both you and your children.
4. Encourage a positive mindset
It’s also important for you and your family to understand that being healthy is a priority. Know that these goals are just as important to your family’s well-being as your job or your significant other’s job.
Healthy habits help to take care of your whole family. You can think of it as an investment in your and your family’s future health. This will help prevent diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
- Talk positively about exercise, nutrition and other healthy habits.
- Make family wellness activities fun and engaging for everyone, not something they dread.
- Involve your children in making decisions about what to eat, what sport to play, where to go hiking, etc. to help them feel confident about making healthy choices. If they feel involved, they’ll feel more excited to participate.
By instilling these healthy habits now, you can help yourself age well and set your children and teens up for success as they enter adulthood—hopefully with good habits already well-established!
5. Stress management
Stress is simply part of life, but there are healthy ways to cope with stress without getting overwhelmed. Make your family’s mental health as much a priority as your physical health. Remember, you set the example for your children and teenagers on how to process the difficult emotions and challenges that life may bring.
- If you have trouble managing your stress levels, consider counseling to discuss healthier methods of dealing with stress.
- Do not be hard on yourself. Everyone faces setbacks, but everyone has the ability to learn and grow from them.
- Encourage your children to talk about their feelings and any problems they’re facing at school. Creating an open environment is important. You want your family home to be a safe space.
- Make a habit of sitting down and eating dinner together. It may not be realistic with everyone’s schedules to do this every evening, but try to incorporate family dinners at least a few times a week.
- Model healthy conflict resolution. When conflicts arise between parents or siblings, use it as a teaching moment to show your children how to handle these situations with grace.
Ready to get started on the path to family wellness? Sit down with your family and make goals together. Evaluate your progress each week and see what can be improved. If you need more support, do not hesitate to contact your primary care doctor or family medicine physician for support.