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Get Your Family Started

Family riding bicycles

Here are some tips to help your family start to eat better, move more, 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, your kids will, too.
  • Include the kids in decision making.
    • Younger children: They love to try new things, including new foods and activities. Talk to them about making healthier choices when it comes to food and physical activity. Ask for their ideas. For example, have them pick an 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. Talk about what it means to eat healthy and be active. Let them know you trust them to make healthy choices.
  • Take it slowly. Make small changes over time. For example, if your family drinks whole milk, buy two percent milk. See if they notice a difference. After a few weeks, buy one percent or low-fat milk. Then switch to fat-free milk a few weeks later.
  • Make it easy. Put a bowl of washed fruit, like grapes or apples, on the table. That way they can just grab it as a snack without thinking! Or cut up broccoli, carrots, and celery, and have a fat-free or 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, less healthy fats, and sugars. 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 will help you and your kids to eat better and move more probably won't be the same. Kids probably won't care that a healthy 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 do well 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.

Last Updated: February 13, 2013