The family that forms good habits together, stays healthy together. A 2015 study funded by Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, and the National Institute on Aging found that couples were more likely to get healthy together. That is, subjects were much more successful at adopting healthy habits if their significant others did too. The same holds true for families — adopting a few good habits together is an excellent way to improve everyone’s overall health.
These don’t have to be big changes, either. Small steps in the right direction can add up to have a major impact, and encourage you to continue making healthy choices in the future. Some simple, healthy habits you can take up today include:
1. Avoid negative self-talk.
The way we use language rubs off on those around us, especially children. For very young kids, their parents are generally the primary source for their language acquisition. With that in mind, curbing negative self-talk becomes extra important — doing so doesn’t just help your self-esteem and mental health, it can actually shape how your kids think of themselves.
Speak positively about your body, so your children are less likely to think negatively about theirs. Consider all of the things your body can do that don’t focus on aesthetics, from walking, to dancing, to carrying heavy things, to just allowing you to enjoy your life.
2. Get everyone involved in shopping and preparing meals.
Involving young children in shopping and meal prep is more than a learning opportunity. While they get the chance to learn about addition, subtraction, and fractions, as well as basic kitchen skills and nutrition, research shows that, when kids participate in creating a meal, they’re more likely to eat it. This can make it easier to introduce healthy foods to youngsters, and help picky eaters accept a wider variety of foods.
3. Swap out refined grains for whole ones.
Kids generally love foods made from refined grains, but they aren’t always the healthiest option. Whole grains contain more vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Luckily, it’s become pretty easy to sub one carb for another. If your child likes rice, sub in brown rice. If you’re having pasta, choose a brown rice pasta (or even better, one made of chickpeas or lentils for extra protein).
4. Keep your plate 50% fruits and vegetables.
One recommendation for a healthier diet is to divide your plate into fractions. Fruits and vegetables should take up roughly a half to two thirds, with grains and protein in the remaining space.
If you can, offer your children a choice of veggies to have with dinner. Something as simple as, “Would you rather have salad, or carrots?” helps them feel in control and increases the odds that they’ll accept the meal, without subjecting them to choice fatigue.
It’s also a good idea to serve smaller portions. When we’re given a large plate of food, we tend to eat more than we would if we had to go get a second helping. If you’re looking to lose weight, something as minor as serving yourself smaller portions can help you save a lot of calories.
5. Eat together.
Mealtimes are about more than just food. They’re also a chance to talk and unwind. Have at least one sit-down meal every day. This gives you a chance to bond, and can actually improve your family’s nutrition. Families that eat together tend to consume more produce, and fewer refined carbs.
Avoid eating on the couch or in front of the T.V. If you can’t sit at the dinner table, at least keep the T.V. or other devices off so the focus can be on each other.
6. Take a walk after dinner.
Walking after dinner is a simple way to help young kids burn off some energy before bedtime, and adults get a little exercise in. It’s also another chance to bond and talk about the things you see in your neighborhood.
Developing healthy habits doesn’t have to be a grind. Even if all you can do is make small changes to your routine, they will still build the foundation for a lifetime of good health.