5 Steps to a Healthier Family

Mom’s meatloaf just isn’t what it used to be. And by that, of course, we mean that unlike the family dinners we once saw on The Waltons—or even The Simpsons, for that matter—it’s more and more difficult to get everyone around the table for a decent meal.

Nevermind that the ingredients in “Ma” Walton’s traditional meatloaf are now much more difficult to find in their natural state, rather than packed with hormones and additives. The bigger challenge we see for families is that everyone is constantly on the go, meaning fewer occasions for wholesome togetherness around something that is good for you.

But we’ve got a few ideas (plus a recipe below) to re-instill health for the whole family.

1. Eat together (at home) as often as possible.

In this era of soccer games, dance recitals, dad working late and mom needing to put together a PowerPoint for tomorrow’s big pitch to investors, it’s easy to fall into the trap: Eat quick, eat in front of the TV, eat junk. Big mistake. Of all the things you can do to influence the health of your family, perhaps the most important is to make family dining a priority. Research shows that having family eat together more than twice a week can positively influence a child’s waist, eating behavior, and overall psychological development.

2. Eat more earlier, less later.

Our bodies crave more calories at the end of the day and fewer in the morning, a holdover from the time when early humans’ food supply was unreliable and storing energy was an advantage. But today that pattern has negative effects on our health. Studies in animals and humans have now found that eating out of sync with the clock is associated with weight gain, chronic disease and premature aging. If you can swing it, make breakfast the family’s largest meal of the day, and cut back at dinner.

3. Start ‘em early.

A basic fact any parent will recognize: Kids prefer foods they’re familiar with. So as soon as possible (and there’s no better time than now), avoid giving them added sugar and foods high in saturated fats, and strive for 100 percent whole grains. Eating healthy as children makes us much more likely to willingly eat healthy in adulthood.

4. And get ‘em to help.

Pick one healthy meal that your kids could assist with. Designate one children’s cooking day each week. Let the kids choose what to make—as long as it fits the nutritional guidelines. Thinking about what is healthful will get them considering nutritional facts but still allow freedom to create and experiment.

5. De-stress together.

You can break the vicious cycle of stress with a productive response to any kind of stressful event: just breathe deeply. When tensions are high in your house, prompt the entire family unit to join in for a few deep breaths to calm the nerves. You’ll soon find everyone will easily become happier and healthier.

Hopefully you’ll adopt all five of these tips—they are easy and will give you and yours more healthy days and nights. And more energy. We promise.

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