5 Healthy New Year's Resolutions
Are you ready to improve your family's health? Here are 5 cool resolutions to ring in the New Year with...
Watch Less TV
Let us start by saying that we are not against TV in general, as it can be a wonderful medium for education, for keeping in touch with the world, and for entertainment. But consider these facts: recent studies have shown that the average American child watches 25 hours of TV per week. If we assume that your children sleep nine hours per night, that means that 24 percent of their waking hours are spent watching television! Think about that—that’s nearly one fourth of their entire childhood. Three full months per year. Ten full years by the age of 40. Imagine what could be done with all that time.
Other studies have shown that in a typical year, kids see 40,000 commercials attempting to influence their behavior, and witness 10,000 violent acts. Now that reality TV is all the rage, we suspect that a typical TV viewer sees over 1,000 incidents per year of an individual being indignantly ejected from their 15 minutes of fame by a conspiracy of their peers, but we admit we have no statistical data on this supposition. Actual studies have demonstrated correlations between childhood obesity and the number of hours of television watched each day, and between school performance and television hours per day. There are many good reasons to cut down.
Try limiting each family member’s TV viewing to an absolute maximum of two hours per day. That is more than enough time to follow your favorite shows and catch up on the news. And take the TVs out of kids’ bedrooms!
Get Fit Together
So now that you have all this time freed up from Resolution #1, what are you going to fill it with? Well, here’s an idea: fun family physical activities! We won’t go into the many benefits of exercise here, but simply take it as a given that the more you can get active, the better you will feel and the healthier you will be. And exercise is a wonderful thing for you to do together as a family for a host of reasons, including increased togetherness and camaraderie, as well as increased motivation.
How to make it happen? Try making a “family activity calendar,” which looks suspiciously like an ordinary wall calendar on which you can put stickers. One sticker goes on the calendar for each day you and the kids are all active for more than 30 minutes. You should have at least three stickers per week. Use your imagination to design an incentive system based on number-of-stickers milestones. Keep a running list of activities you enjoy doing as a family, such as jumping rope, hopscotch, red light green light, soccer, basketball, ice skating, sledding, foot races, obstacle courses, tag, etc.
Enforce Family Meals
This is a hard one, we know, given the busy schedules of the 21st century. But in our view, busy schedules make it even more important that families pause several times each week to spend time together. Eating meals together is an important way to ensure your kids are eating healthily. If you’re setting the table, you can control and monitor what your kids eat, and you can model correct eating behavior and healthy habits for your kids.
In addition, meal times are an important opportunity to listen to your kids, let them feel you are listening to them, talk to your kids, and to impart your values (including good table manners). Remember, breakfast can be considered one of these family meals if the table is set and you have at least 30 minutes to sit and talk to each other.
Don’t Forget to Eat!
We thought about making this one less stringent, but, well, you really shouldn’t skip meals—especially breakfast, the easiest meal of the day to skip. There are many reasons for this. It may be counter-intuitive, but you will actually eat less during the day if you always eat a healthy breakfast because you won’t be hungry and tempted to snack and overeat throughout the morning. Eating breakfast will also jumpstart your metabolism in the morning, spurring your body to consume more calories; skipping breakfast has the opposite effect, as the lack of nourishment slows down your metabolism as your body struggles to conserve energy.
When they eat a regular breakfast, your kids could end up doing better in school as well, since they will have the energy they need to pay attention in class in the morning. If you are finding that your family doesn’t have enough time for breakfast, wake up 10 to 15 minutes earlier. And plan the next day’s breakfast before bed each night so kids know what to reach for in the morning.
Scheduled snacks are important too. We recommend one snack mid-morning and one snack mid-afternoon. Snacks after dinner should be avoided in general; if you do allow them after dinner, make sure they are fruits or vegetables.
Focus on Nutrition
No, not five servings distributed across your whole family, but five servings each! We have written elsewhere on the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, but it’s so important, it’s worth repeating. To help in this goal, it helps to always have fruits and vegetables in the house—go the store at least twice a week to restock. Here’s a sample day as a guide: an orange at breakfast, carrot sticks for a morning snack, an apple at lunch, green beans at dinner, and a pear for dessert. At dinnertime, half of each family member’s plate should consist of fruits and/or vegetables.
A final note: these five resolutions are meant to be simple and actionable ways to improve your family’s health. Resolutions in and of themselves are useless if they are not followed by consistent action. If you make them together as a family, you will greatly increase the odds that you will follow through and reap the benefits. Happy New Year!
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