Here are some suggestions on how to approach your family to eat better, increase physical activity, and reduce screen time:
- Be a good role model. Research shows that children and teens really do listen to their parents, and follow their lead. It’s likely if you eat well, move more, and spend less time in front of the TV or computer, so will your kids.
- Include the kids in decision making.
- Younger children: They love to try new things, including new foods and activities. Talk to them about making smarter choices when it comes to food and physical activity, and ask for their ideas. For example, have them pick a physical activity for the whole family. Have them come with you to the grocery store to pick out healthy foods they want to try. Let them choose a fun activity to do instead of watching TV. That way you can support each other.
- Older children: Unlike younger children, pre-teens and teens might not be open to you telling them what to do. So make sure to recognize the approach that works best with your child. For example, teens with an independent streak might respond better to questions about what they want to do, rather than being told what they should do. You could make some suggestions about physical activities. When it comes to better nutrition, you can let them know you bought some healthier snacks for them to try and tell them you trust them to make something themselves when they're hungry.
- Take it slowly. Sudden changes—especially when it comes to food—can be upsetting. Introduce new foods gradually, over time.
- For example, if your family normally drinks whole milk, buy two percent low-fat milk. See if they notice a difference. After a few weeks, once they’ve gotten used to it, buy the one percent low-fat milk to reduce the calories and fat even more.
- Make it easy. Put a bowl of washed fruit, such as grapes or apples, on the table. That way they can just grab it as a snack, without thinking! Another idea is to cut up broccoli, carrots, and celery, and have a low-fat dip on hand. There are many other ways that are just as easy.
- Limit high fat and sugary foods in your cupboards. When you’re at the grocery store, read the Nutrition Facts Label to find foods lower in calories, fat, and sugar. Stock your shelves and fridge with foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat milk products.
- Talk about the benefits in ways that mean something. The reasons that persuade you and your kids to eat better and move more probably won’t be the same. Kids probably won't care that a nutritious diet with lots of fruits and veggies can help prevent certain diseases. It also might not matter to them that being physically fit can reduce their risk of heart disease. What they might care about, though, is that these changes could help them grow stronger, improve their appearance, and/or help them excel at sports. By helping your kids understand the connections between their lifestyle choices and benefits that mean something to them, it’s more likely that they’ll agree to the changes you’re making.