I often hear from clients, “Is there just a quick ‘to do’ list of suggestions we can follow to whip our household into shape to be healthier?” With another school nipping at our heels and our households about to get super crazy, what better time to start implementing ways to get on the healthy path asap? Some of you may be doing all, most, or some of these already; if not? No worries. You’re not a healthy failure! Remember it’s never too late to start doing things – no matter how simple or grand – to boost the well-being of everyone in your family. I’ve compiled a list of my top suggestions of things I feel make the greatest difference, with the most important being mentioned first. Don’t let this list overwhelm you or send you into a downward spiral of beating yourself up over things you think you’re NOT doing right; rather, let it be a guide or even just plant an idea to help you start moving in the right direction. EVERYONE has the potential to do well!
- PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH & LIVE BY EXAMPLE – As a teacher and parent, I know first-hand how children learn from what they see at home. YOU are your child’s first teacher, meaning that they watch what you eat, drink, say, do…all day, every day. If you want your children to grow up leading healthy lives, it starts with the home and the influences and examples set there. I am not expecting you to be perfect – nobody is. But simple things by leading by example – “walking the talk” – is the most powerful thing you can do for your children CONSISTENTLY. If you don’t want them to eat junk food (even when they will be exposed to it when they’re out of your reign, which WILL happen), then model what it looks like to make smart and healthy choices. We obviously don’t live in bubbles, so showing how to make a choice when faced with reality is key. Your kids will look up to you and follow your lead – believe me. This will also be important for everyone else you interact with, too – they will make note of your healthy habits and be inspired (and if they’re not, at least they had the chance to see what making healthy choices looks like and they may choose to do so when they’re ready).
- SET YOUR HOME UP FOR HEALTHY EATING SUCCESS – So many times I hear about how hard it is for parents to keep interest in healthy foods amongst the family. I personally think this is hard when there are options available that may not be healthy, thus making it a challenge for sure to choose better option. Lets’ face it – we’re all human – and kids especially have zero filter when it comes to being tempted by “treats.” I understand that making baby steps to eating healthier sets the stage for long-term success… but know the longer you keep bringing foods into your home that can create a set-back, the longer it will take to really grasp and master “eating healthy.” Why do that to yourself? Call it “going cold turkey” or whatever term fits the bill, but when I coach clients on “cleaning their cabinets out” – I teach them how to FILL their cabinets with yummy, healthy choices (like MySuperFoods SuperSnacks!) instead of, let’s say, GMO/sugar/processed treats that may have been a favorite in the past. There are so many options out there to ENRICH your cabinets with tons of healthier CHOICES for you and your kids to make, so please don’t think of it as a deprivation move by getting rid of unhealthy things from your home. Praise your children every time they make a healthy choice – positive reinforcement is one of the best ways to foster and promote continuing desirable behavior. Trust me – it will make a world of difference.
- GO ORGANIC WHEN YOU CAN – I know it costs more money in many cases. I know buying organic isn’t readily available in all areas. I know everyone does not live where farmers’ markets and gardens are available. However, when these options are available, please consider choosing them ESPECIALLY when it deals with THE DIRTY DOZEN, as these contain the highest rates of pesticides and contaminants that can do MAJOR DAMAGE to the human body. Check out these MySuperFoods blog posts for reference: https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/the-dirty-dozen-fruits-and-veggies-with-the-highest-amount-of-pesticides/
- READ LABELS! ALL THE TIME! – I feel like this should be my motto, I say it so much. However, I cannot stress enough how this is pretty much the ONLY way you will know what’s in your foods and products you use on your body and in your home (unless you make it yourself). As parents, I cannot stress to you enough how you are the gatekeeper in so many ways of what gets into your family’s bodies. It’s a HUGE responsibility, but one you can tackle and handle with ease with the one task of reading labels. You have the choice to put something down and walk away after you’ve read what’s in it (or not in it, for that matter). We all vote with our forks, too – so using your purchasing power will also help influence what shows as a “demand” over time in our stores. If more people buy healthy products through their knowledge of what’s in what is bought, then those products will hopefully start to push out the unhealthier choices in stores. Regardless, take the little bit of extra time to really read what something is made of and not fall for health claims on packages as a deciding factor as to whether or not something is healthy. In case you missed my recent articles on food labels:
- AVOID ARTIFICIAL INGREDIENTS! – I could write a book on how dangerous artificial colorings, sweeteners, flavorings, and additives are. Ranging from causing cancer to ADHD symptoms, migraines, weight issues, behavioral problems, allergies, etc…. I cannot find ONE positive thing about artificial anything to make it worthwhile to buy and subject our bodies to. I’ve been there, done that – I feel as if everything I ate used to be made out of something artificial….and my body paid the price. I would see how the children in my classroom who ate foods with artificial anything in it would struggle to pay attention, settle down, or even stay awake. I really got concerned when headaches became a “norm” amongst the 9 and 10 year olds who filled my classroom. Reference these MySuperFoods blog entries to read up on the dangers to artificial ingredients:
- KEEP TOXINS OUT OF YOUR HOME AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE – Along the same lines as why it’s important to keep harmful chemicals and substances out of our bodies by what we eat, the same principle applies to our immediate environment. Through the countless research I have done for my health coaching business and ways to help families get to the root of many underlying conditions such as food allergies, unexplainable illnesses and ailments, weight gain, and behavioral issues, somehow toxins always somehow come back as one of the main culprits. Whether it be what we wash our clothes in, our counters with, or lather on our bodies…. You have to be mindful, educated, and aware that everything around and on us counts just as much as what we feed ourselves with. Please reference these MySuperFoods blog entries and articles for a comprehensive list on toxins to avoid and strategies to keep your home and environment as “green clean” as possible:
- CROWD OUT THE BAD WITH THE GOOD – ADD AS MANY OF THESE HEALHY FOODS INTO YOUR HOME AND DIETS AS YOU CAN – In my health coaching practice, one of the foundation practices is called “crowding out” when educating and supporting individuals on how to transition to eating healthier without feeling like the rug is being ripped out from underneath them. This is huge when people are trying to cut sugar and processed foods out of their diet…they can’t imagine what they will eat instead that will taste so good. They are pleasantly surprised to see that when adding just one healthy food in here and there, it will be easy to phase out something that isn’t healthy. More and more of this “crowding out” will eventually lead to a transformational adaptation the body will crave – for the good. The same goes for kids. I know some people advise against “hiding” healthy foods in things so the “kids don’t know”…but to be honest, when health coaching, I have to hide healthy foods in some adults’ foods so they’ll more willingly eat them. Take the green smoothie for example. I personally don’t like kale raw unless it’s in a smoothie. I don’t like it in salads all the time… but I have to eat it every day as my body now craves it. My solution? I blend it up in a juice or smoothie every morning… and I love it. My son loves it and has been consuming it since he was 8 months old…yet if I put a leaf of raw kale alone in his mouth…I have a scene from the movie Alien on my hands. So, pick your battles. I feel as long as the foods are being eaten (without having to use unhealthy foods as “transport methods”/disguises), see how you can incorporate them as much as possible. Here are some great foods to add to your home if you aren’t already:
Be sure to check out the awesome array of healthy recipes on the MySuperFoods website for great ideas: http://www.mysuperfoodscompany.com/recipes/
- BE PHYSICALLY ACTIVE – Exercise is just as important as eating healthy. You can eat as healthy as you want, but unless you are keeping your body active, you’re missing a huge piece to the healthy puzzle. Being active also keeps your kids engaged in activities that build confidence, teach about problem and conflict solving, team building, and just spending more time building a sense of who they are and what they enjoy. It’s also a great way for the family to be involved and spend quality time together.
- STAY HYDRATED WITH AS MUCH CLEAN WATER AS POSSIBLE – Our bodies are comprised primarily out of water and without this essential nutrient, we would die within days. While other beverages have flooded the market and have become usual staples households across the globe, I honestly cannot find a better replacement for water as to what should be drank most throughout the course of the day. It replenishes our cells, it flushes toxins out of our system, it keeps us feeling awake and helps our brains function best, it lubricates our organs, staves off illness and headaches, keeps our skin looking fresh, it helps metabolism, and is the major way for our bodies to regulate temperature. I know drinking water all the time can get boring, so feel free to jazz it up with some fruit or even things like cucumbers or herbs (sage water is delicious! [but not recommended for breastfeeding mothers, as sage limits breastmilk production]). One major concern of water I have – its cleanliness and quality. I hate to say it, but I am not a fan of tap water due to the amount it’s been over-processed and the amount of chemicals added to it. Check out the articles below to refresh your memory on everything water:
- LIMIT SUGAR AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE – Some of you may be laughing at me right now, thinking, “Are you living in dream world, lady!??” As a sugar addict myself who consumed enough sugar to fuel a trip to the moon and back as a child, teen, and 20-something, I understand. I would find it, sniff it out, scavenger for it, treasure it, savor it, and eat it whenever I could. And I paid a huge price for it. Mood imbalances, sleep disturbances, dealing with hypoglycemia, hyperactivity, energy crashes, weight gain as a teen, hormone imbalance, headaches, and finally…withdrawal symptoms were all things I was ready to let go when I decided to kick the sugar habit. I know this is something I do not want my son to go through, so I am doing all that I can to train his taste buds NOW to not crave sugar like I did. My dad was addicted to sugar, many people in my family are, and it’s just not something I want to foster in my home anymore. By nature, humans are drawn to sugar; yet it’s easy to cut the craving for it by not training ourselves to “need” it. Eating diets high in fiber, healthy fats, lots of water, and enjoying the natural sugars of fruit are all ways to “crowd out” the craving for sugar. Sugar is the favorite food for bacteria, viruses, and even cancer cells. Why expose our bodies to this? I see so many kids at a YOUNG age starting off on the sugar road…whether it be a lollipop from the doctor, or a piece of candy for using the toilet, sugar is used so often as a reward and form of celebration in our society. Read up on ways to beat the sugar rush for your family:
- CATCH THOSE ZZzzzzzS – Sleep. It’s important. You know you feel miserable when you don’t get enough. Not only that, but it can lead to some major health complications like hormone imbalance, adrenal fatigue, mood problems, difficulty thinking and processing, and immune imbalance. It’s even more important for our little ones to get the right amount of sleep to let their growing bodies do just that – grow (and repair). Check out the article below for some great sleep tips and reasons why it’s so important for ALL of us:
- FILL-IN THE GAPS WITH HIGH-QUALITY SUPPLEMENTS – I’m definitely an advocate for getting all of our nutrient needs met through a healthy and balanced diet, as foods are the best sources of vitamins and minerals. However, we all know eating perfectly to obtain the targeted amount of recommended vitamins, minerals and other nutrients is not possible each and every day. Not to mention, due to the state of our food supply across the globe being deeply impacted by the soil being robbed of nutrients in many areas, pollution, and chemicals (yes, even on organics), our produce does not contain the level of vitamins and minerals it used to in the past. This impacts our body’s ability to properly absorb all that it needs (not to mention all of the environmental toxins that cause an interference of this in our bodies daily). I do NOT feel that vitamins and supplements should be used to replace a healthy diet and lifestyle. However, through tons of research and consulting with doctors and professionals, I have become a HUGE believer in using HIGH-QUALITY supplements to “fill in the gaps” and assist our bodies in maintaining optimal health. With that said, I am EXTEMELY picky and selective with what supplements and brands I will allow in my home (in fact, I am writing next week’s article on supplements and what parents should look out for in particular). I have found that through taking supplements like probiotics, high-quality multi-vitamins, and immune-boosting alternatives, my health has never been better. Read the articles below for specifics:
- KEEP THOSE CHOMPERS CLEAN – I recently wrote an article on the importance of dental health. I am a firm believer that the mouth and teeth are a gateway for the health and well-being for the rest of our body, and since we only get one set of adult teeth that will last us all of our lives, it’s so important to take care of them NOW.
I hope you find this compilation of ideas helpful, as I have seen through my years of health coaching these practices to be tried and true examples of what really helps make us all HEALTHY. Again, please do not feel like you have to go rush out and implement all of them at once or feel like I am trying to make you feel bad if you are not doing most/any/all of these. It’s just my way of trying to spread the methods that have not only helped me, but so many families I have worked with. Please feel free to share any of your ideas, as I love to hear what others are doing, too!
Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Health & Nutrition Coaching of Exponential Health and Wellness, LLC: http://www.exponentialhealthandwellness.us