Small Steps Towards a Healthier Life

Springtime. It's a great time to think about how you can make small improvements in your family's health. A few small changes can make a huge impact!

  1. Drink up:
    • Drink water before each meal.
    • Reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soft drinks, fruit drinks, punches, flavored milks, sports drinks and flavored coffees. These beverages are liquid candy and should rarely be served.
    • One hundred percent pure fruit juice does not contain added sugar, but may well contribute to excess calories. Portions should be limited.
    • Pack water or milk in your child’s school lunch instead of a juice box.
    • Add berries or cucumber to your water to give it a little flavor. The kids will love the berry treat when they finish their water!
  2. Pack in the produce:
    • High fruit and vegetable consumption decreases risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Ensure that your child eats fruits and vegetables at every meal and as a snack.
    • Try "Meatless Mondays."
    • Some great vegetarian proteins are also a good source of iron, such as beans, lentils, spinach, dried fruit, almonds, and iron-fortified cereal.
    • Vitamin C helps aid in iron absorption, so if you’re taking an iron supplement or eating a plant source of iron such as beans, take it with a cup of orange juice or some strawberries.
  3. Food labeling:
    • Look for the USDA organic label. Organic not only means the food was grown without pesticides or fertilizers, but it also guarantees there is nothing artificial in it, such as artificial coloring, preservatives, etc. None of our bodies need artificial anything!
    • Words like "bran," "wheat germ" and "fiber" do not mean a product is whole grain. Check the ingredients – if the first ingredient contains the word "whole," then it's likely (though not guaranteed) that the product is mostly whole grain.  If a product has a 100% stamp, then all the grain ingredients are whole grains and it contains at least a full serving (16 grams) of whole grains per serving.
    • If a food label, like Mom Made's turkey meatballs, says it is "low sodium," then it has 140mg or less per serving. If the label says "reduced" or "less sodium," then it has 25% less sodium than the referenced amounts customarily consumed compared to reference foods ("RACC" in food label world). Be careful though as the reference foods may not be "low sodium" to begin with! To keep track of how much salt you're actually eating, check out the amount of sodium on the label and try to stay under 2,300mg per day.
  4. Rain or shine, go outside:
    • Replace Sunday drive with a Sunday family walk. 
    • After dinner, turn on the tunes and dance or go for a family walk.
    • Play hide-n-seek or tag with your kids. Not only will you find yourself cracking up and out of breath, you will earn the coolest parent award!

Do you have other ideas to add to this list? Please share!