Strategies for Real Life Written by: Dwight Bain, LMHC

If you are interested in jump-starting your family on healthy lifestyle by making some nutrition and physical activity changes, here are a few strategies to get you started:

· Recognize that you have more control than you might think. You can turn off the TV and video game. You can choose to get off the bus one stop earlier than usual and walk the rest of the way, especially when you are with your kids. You can give your family more vegetables for dinner.

· Think about the immediate benefits. If reducing future heart disease risk seems a bit abstract, focus on the good things that can happen right now. You won’t feel so full if you have a smaller portion or skip dessert. Going hiking with your teenager might lead a wonderful talk that neither of you anticipated. A fruit salad tastes great and looks beautiful. Dancing with your spouse is lots of fun and can give you a great workout.

· Make small, easy changes over time. Suggesting that family members take a run together every day will probably get you lots of eye-rolling and “ no-thank-you’s.” It’s easier and more appealing to start out with some new approaches to nutrition and physical activity that the whole family is really willing to try. For example, take a walk after dinner or a couple nights a week instead of turning on the TV. And instead, of chocolate cake with frosting, enjoy sliced strawberries over angle food cake.

· Try a variety of strategies. No one will notice if you used part-skim mozzarella cheese instead of whole-milk mozzarella in your lasagna, but you will be reducing the calories and fat for everyone who eats it. Combine “invisible” strategies like this with strategies that actively involve other family members: See if everyone will commit to eating healthy dinners together at least four times a week. Get your child involved in the process of shopping for and preparing these healthy dinners. Make a plan with your child to walk to school together or to walk after dinner 2 days a week.

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