Healthy Family Tips

Healthy FamilyEating Better

For Children and Families

  • Start the day with a healthy breakfast. It refuels your body and gives you energy for the day.
  • Let kids help plan one meal each week and eat together as often as possible.
  • Eat slowly. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full.
  • Eat more vegetables and fresh fruits. Aim for a total of 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables every day.
  • Eat more whole grains (e.g., oats, brown rice, rye, crackers, whole-wheat pasta). Try to eat at least 3 ounces of whole grains every day.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Choose water, low-fat or nonfat milk and low calorie or diet beverages.
  • Serve a variety of foods.

For Parents

  • Reward children with praise rather than with food.
  • Serve food in smaller portions. Do not demand or reward “a clean plate.” Let your child ask for more if he or she is still hungry.
  • Read nutrition labels for serving size and calorie information. The information on the labels can help you select foods that best fit into your family’s meal and snack plans.
  • Bake, broil or grill foods to reduce fat. Rather than cooking with butter or vegetable oil, try healthier versions like olive, canola or sunflower oil.
  • Snacks should provide nutrients and energy, which are essential for active, growing children.
  • Do not give your child vitamin supplements unless they are recommended by your doctor.
  • Children imitate their parents, so set a good example by eating healthy foods.
  • Keep a variety of snacks in the house, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, whole-grain cereals and crackers. Try lower calorie or lower fat foods, like baked chips, reduced-sugar cereals or low-fat dressings.

Being More Active

For Children and Families

  • Move more. Try to get between 30 and 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Several 10 to 15 minute sessions of moderate activity each day add up.
  • Include regular physical activity into your daily routine. Walk as a family before or after meals.
  • Limit TV, computer and video game time to a total of one to two hours per day. Encourage physical activity instead.
  • Balance energy calories with activity calories. The energy you get from foods and beverages should equal the calories you burn in activity every day. Read our handout on daily calorie needs for more information.
  • Increase household activities (e.g., walking the dog, dusting, vacuuming, gardening). These activities are good ways to burn calories.
  • Include an activity like hiking or bike riding when you go on vacation.
  • Make playtime with your family more active by shooting hoops or walking to the park.

For Parents

  • Move more. Walking is an easy way to be more active every day.
  • Park the car in a spot farther away from the store or your office and walk.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Get off the bus one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way.
  • Use an exercise machine or lift weights while watching television.
  • Walk to do errands.
  • Be a role model for your children. Do something active every day.

Healthy Habits for Life

  • Write down what you eat: how much, when and why. For example, what do you eat when you’re stressed out? Learn more about keeping a food diary here.
  • Record your physical activity: how long, how often and how hard do you work out?
  • Eat only at the kitchen table. Don’t drive, watch television or talk on the phone while you eat. This helps you focus on how much you are eating, which can prevent overeating.
  • Put out your exercise clothes the night before as a reminder to walk or work out in the morning.
  • Set goals you can achieve. For example, aim for eating more vegetables and fewer high-calorie foods.
  • Don’t “up size” your favorite drink – 32 oz. of regular soda has up to 400 calories! Choose water or a diet drink instead.
  • Eat only until you’re not hungry and push the plate away. Don’t stuff yourself.
  • Eat only because you’re hungry, not because you’re bored, tired or stressed. Use alternatives to eating when you’re not hungry: take a walk, play a game, read a book or call a friend.
  • Do your grocery shopping on a full stomach. This will help you make healthier food choices, rather than grabbing over-processed high-calorie foods, which can be hard to resist when your stomach is empty.

About Energy

We all need energy to grow, stay alive, keep warm and be active. Energy is provided by the carbohydrate, protein and fat in the food and drinks we consume. It is also provided by alcohol. Different food and drinks provide different amounts of energy.

The amount of energy (measured in units of calories or kilojoules) a food contains per gram is known as its energy density.

  • Foods with fewer calories per gram such as fruits, vegetables, soups, lean protein- and carbohydrate-rich foods have a relatively low energy density.
  • Foods with a high fat and/or low water content such as chocolate, fried snacks, nuts and crackers have a relatively higher energy density.

Having a diet with a low energy density overall can help to control calorie intake while helping to avoid feeling too hungry.

Carbohydrate is the most important source of energy for the body because it is the main fuel for both your muscles and brain. Sources of carbohydrate include starchy foods, e.g. bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, pulses and breakfast cereals.

Different people need different amounts of energy. This depends on your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which measures the amount of energy you use to maintain the basic functions of the body, as well as your level of activity.

Some activities use more energy than the others. The more active you are, the more energy your body uses up. Being physically active can increase your muscle mass and this means you will actually be using more energy all the time, even when you are resting.

Energy balance

Your weight depends on the balance between how much energy you consume from food and drinks, and how much energy you use up by being active. When you eat or drink more energy than you use up, you put on weight; if you consume less energy from your diet than you expend, you lose weight; but if you eat and drink the same amount of energy as you use up, you are in energy balance and your weight remains the same.

In the UK, the majority of adults are either overweight or obese, which means that many of us are consuming more energy than we need from food and drinks and need to try to reduce our energy intake in order to move towards a healthy weight.

Tips for Healthy Eating

# Base your meals on starchy foods: bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, noodles

  • Choose whole grains and potatoes with skin where possible which havemore fibre, vitamins and minerals.
  • Remember starchy foods contain fewer than half the calories of fats per gram

# Eat lots of fruit and veg

  • Choose a variety of fruit and vegetables as they contain different combinations of vitamins and minerals.
  • Fresh, frozen, tinned and 100% fruit juices all count!
  • Try grating vegetables like carrots and courgettes into bolognaise or add lots of vegetables to homemade tomato sauce and blend.

# Eat more fish – aim for at least two portions per week and one of these should be oily

  • Remember that one portion of fish is approximately 140g cooked weight.
    Oily fish are one of the only natural food sources of vitamin D, important for bone health. Oily fish includes salmon, fresh tuna, sardines, mackerel and trout.
  • Choose from fresh, frozen, smoked and canned, but remember that smoked fish contains salt, and canned can do, so check labels and pick lower salt varieties.

# Cut down on saturated fat and sugar

  • Although we need some fat in our diet (to provide the essential fatty acids and aid the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K), too much fat may lead to weight gain, as fat provides 9 calories per gram, more than double that from carbohydrates and protein.
  • Replace saturated fats from butter, lard, pastries, cream, pies and cheese (which can increase your blood cholesterol levels) with unsaturated fats found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, oily fish and avocados.
  • Too much sugar, especially between meals can increase risk of tooth decay and will add extra calories so limit your added sugar intake! If you get a sweet craving try having fruit instead, helping you to achieve your 5-a-day!

# Eat less salt, adults should eat no more than 6 g per day and children should have even less

  • A high salt intake is associated with an increased risk of developing high blood pressure which puts you at a greater risk of developing stroke or heart disease.
  • Most of our salt intake comes from processed foods rather than salt added during cooking or at the table, so always check food labels for the salt content!
  • When comparing foods, a high salt content is more than 1.5g salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium). Low is 0.3g salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium).
  • Try using extra herbs, spices, citrus juices (lemon and lime), mustard or vinegar to flavour foods so you can use less salt in your recipes.

# Get active and be a healthy weight!

  • The government recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes vigorous intensity physical activity for adults 19-64 years of age and muscle strength training on at least two days per week.
  • What counts? Moderate intensity activities include cycling or brisk walking. High or vigorous intensity activities include swimming and running. Muscle strengthening activities include weight lifting, exercises with weights or carrying heavy boxes or groceries.
  • Did you know….? Over 60% of adults in the UK are overweight or obese which increases the risk of getting type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Physical activity can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke and help maintain a healthy weight.

# Don’t get thirsty

  • Aim for 8-10 glasses of fluid per day. Water is the best choice as it hydrates you without adding any extra calories to your daily intake.
  • Most types of drink count including water, tea, coffee, soft drinks, milk, fruit juice and smoothies, but try to avoid added sugar in your drinks as this can increase risk of dental decay.
  • Alcohol does not count because it makes you pass urine more frequently and contributes to dehydration rather than hydration!

# Don’t skip breakfast

  • A healthy breakfast can provide fibre, calories, vitamins and minerals important for health. Choose wholegrain cereals, porridge or wholemeal toast with fruit for a healthy start to the day.