The New Year is a time when many people reflect on what’s been going well, and also think about small changes they might like to make to improve their health and wellness. You’ve likely got a thing or two in mind for your own self-care goals. Along with these, think about picking an item that your family can work on together as well. It’s more fun to work as a team, and you can encourage each other along the way to creating healthier habits.
Last year, Dr. Mollie Grow told us about making SMART resolutions (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely). This year, she’s offering more ideas for families to consider as they take steps for better health, safety and wellness in 2016.
“The New Year is a great time to reflect on our values and priorities as a family and look for ways to act these out in daily life,” Grow said.
Eat for good health
An area that generally takes ongoing maintenance for all of us is good nutrition.
“In our home, we really value eating well to feel good, but winter months can be especially challenging to focus on nutritious foods when the so-called ‘comfort’ foods are in abundance and we have less daylight hours for shopping and cooking,” Grow said.
Given these challenges, it’s a perfect time to redouble efforts. Try choosing one idea at a time and practice until it becomes habit. Some ideas Grow offers as a starting place include:
- Eat breakfast every day. A healthy breakfast gives you more energy to start the day, and it actually helps with weight control. Take a moment each night to set out the bowls, spoons, cereal and bananas, for example, or hard-boil eggs on the weekend to save time preparing breakfast on busy weekday mornings. Especially in the winter, Grow said she and her family love to make regular oatmeal in the microwave (use regular rolled oats just covered with water and microwave for about two minutes in a large cereal bowl so it doesn’t overflow). Her favorite mix-ins: peanut butter, shredded coconut, dried cranberries and cinnamon.
- Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Cut up veggies and melons at the start of the week and store them in clear containers in the fridge. Add veggies to scrambled eggs, pasta, casseroles and quesadillas. Top cereal with fresh fruit, or stir berries into yogurt or pancake batter. “In our family we love apples, so we literally try to buy 28 apples when we shop on the weekend –one a day for each of us all week! This time of year, we also stock lots of the delicious mandarin oranges,” Grow said.
- Resolve to eat one more weekly meal together, as a family, than you normally do. Try creating a regular time each week that you use for looking over the coming week’s schedule and identify when you can eat together. If you make a big pot of chili on the weekend, you may be able to sit down together for leftovers on a weeknight, in between work, school and evening activities. Grow said, “We use a whiteboard on the fridge and make our menu plan for the week (along with quick notes about any events that impact dinner) so the whole family knows what’s ahead.”
- Choose whole-grain versions of products like pasta noodles, cereal, tortillas and bagels.
- Stop buying sugar-sweetened beverages and choose water instead. Grow’s recommendation, “We LOVE unsweetened bubbly water at our house. You can make a delicious “spritzer” with a splash of juice for a treat.”
Be active together
Kids need at least 60 minutes of active play every day, and adults should be getting 30 minutes five times per week. Look for ways to get the whole family moving. Try an after-dinner walk, a Friday night living room dance party, a bike ride on the weekend, or hit the local pool for some water play or laps. Some families take turns picking an activity for exercise each week, and some write ideas to pull out of a hat each week. Mix it up and make it fun! Grow and her kids enjoy doing all of the above. Her kids enjoy putting on dance shows, too – a good option if the kids have more energy at night than the adults do.
Reduce screen time
Replace some screen time with being active, and you’ve worked on two areas at one time! Try using a timer to limit screen time, commit to screen-free meals (including parents’ phones). Turn off the TV when no one is watching so you can enjoy music or quiet. Don’t forget to use screen time together, too, so you can reap the benefits of family bonding and addressing any negative messages parents might want to counteract.
“Stick to a goal of under two hours of screen time for kids (which parents also need to model). Our family enjoys having movie nights and picking a show to watch together on weekends,” said Grow.
We all know that sleep is important to well-being, but it can be hard to make it a priority in a busy household. Kids need sleep for growth and development, and we all need sleep for concentration, mood, mental health, safety and wellness. If your family resolves to get more sleep in the new year, try turning off devices one hour before bedtime and using a routine, like “bath, brush, book, bed.” You can ease bedtime back for each member by 15 minutes a night until you are each getting the recommended amount. Reestablishing a good bedtime routine, no matter the ages of children can also help with the amount and quality of sleep.
“I love books before bed with my daughters,” Grow said. “That is sacred time for us. While it takes constant work for me to prioritize sleep, I really try to model for my kids by getting 7 1/2 to 8 hours every night. I am a much better parent that way!”
Stress can be good, motivating us to meet deadlines or pushing us to try new things, but too much stress is harmful. Parents face daily stressors – managing the family schedule, paying bills, finding time for self-care and much more. What parents sometimes forget is that kids feel stress, too. And like adults, a variety of things can trouble a child, from friendship issues or a poor grade on a test, to family changes, like divorce, birth of a sibling or a parent’s job-loss.
Look for one way to simplify your family’s schedule. Organize a new carpool, drop an activity or commitment, or get into a new homework routine you can all agree upon. Resolve to make a plan for ways each family member can cope with stress, like going for a walk, doing art, meditating, stretching or listening to music.
Seize the day!
Today is a great time to make some positive changes. Gather your family and have fun making SMART resolutions!