The ultimate guide to family health and nutrition

For families, health and nutrition is crucially important.

It’s an opportunity to give your children and loved ones a great start and invest in their health and wellbeing.

The example we set for those around us is crucial to our own accountability and their trajectory. That’s why, today, we’re going to discuss how to deal with health and fitness for the whole family. Small changes cascade into large, long-term change that benefits us all.

Positive change starts at home, so stick with us if you’re ready to invest in the health and welfare of your family.

Family Fitness

There are a few ways that you can get your family involved in activity and fitness. There are a few we’re going to discuss prominently today: general activity, non-sport fitness, and real sports.

This isn’t a checklist – you don’t need to stick to our approach specifically. THe important part is to find something that you’re going to enjoy as a family and be able to stick with – consistency is key.

Health needs to be addressed to and that’s why families need to learn about macro diet plans early on. Following a flexible approach to eating is going to help the family in the long term in understanding that restricting via diets is never a long-term solution.

General Activity

Being active in day-to-day life is crucial. Non-exercise activity is a big contributor to fitness and health. Those with more active lifestyles burn more calories, have better health markers and tend to remain active as they age.

This can be as simple as spending more time outside playing – being out and about is key for this process. Spending leisure time walking, adventuring, and encouraging physical play all contribute to a better health and fitness routine in the family.

The beauty of this is that it tends to be passive and easily-enjoyed. It’s a process that makes long-term change easier to deal with. The problems of fitness and activity often only occur because they’re hard to stick with. If you can make activity a part of fun and life, it’ll stick without much effort.

Non-Sport Fitness

This includes everything from paintball to adventure holidays. Spending time in engaging, physical activity is an easy way of getting kids and other family members to commit to these changes of their own free will.

Any form of enjoyable activity that raises the heart-rate is great. This includes hundreds, if not thousands, of fun pastimes. All it takes is finding something that overlaps between your family’s interests and physically-demanding activities.

Recreational physical activity like rock-climbing, casual sports and other, simple forms of activity all contribute to good patterns and a positive relationship with physical activity. If nothing else, this supports a development process that favours movement and activity – something that will stay with children for their whole lives.

Organised Sports

If you can make exercise fun, you’ve already won.

Organised sports are a great way to engage children with the character changes and physical discipline being a competitor demands. This usually builds into their development process rather easily. Kids benefit from the social and physical side of sports.

The challenging part is finding the sports that fit your child’s temperament and interests. The most popular sports aren’t always the best ones for your child – the best way to deal with this is trying a little bit of everything.

Rugby Warfare showed in their recent study that boys felt happier when they played as part of a sport team than if they didn’t.

All children should be multi-sport athletes. They benefit from variety, not specificity – asking a child to train just one sport reduces their exposure to others and we usually find that child-athletes who don’t perform many sports get bored and drop out as they develop. This variety keeps exercise fun and gives children lots of choice when it comes time to commit to a main sport.

There are so many possibilities with sport that engagement with at least one is quite likely. It’s important to remember that this doesn’t make you a pushy parent. There’s a big difference between giving children exposure to sport and forcing them down a pre-set pathway.

Good parents want the best for their children, and this approach to sport is exactly that. Active kids become active adults, and the changes and habits that are learned with sports prepare them for life and the character traits it demands: dedication, persistence, problem-solving and team-work.

Sports are a great way of making exercise stick; it only takes one session in a sport to spark a lifetime of activity and commitment to physical progress.

Learning, Not Restricting: Making Nutrition Work

Nutrition isn’t quite as simple as the way that we break down exercise into categories. Rather, it’s all about dispelling the wrong ideas and adopting the right mindset for children’s nutrition and diet.

The most important fact is this: educating children on nutrition is more important than forcing it on them. Kids are creatures of desire and they’re notoriously bad at deferring gratification.

You are Responsible for Your Children’s Diet

Good luck convincing a kid to avoid sweets because it’ll increase their long-term risk of obesity and diabetes.

Kids don’t care.

What they need is a diet that exposes them to the widest variety of foods in a well-structured and healthy way to begin with. As young children, the only person responsible for their intake of sweets and other low-quality foods are their parents. The final word on what they eat comes down to what you allow them to eat, or buy for them.

This is a hard process to come to terms with. We don’t like saying no to our children. However, it’s important that parents make that long-term investment in a child’s health because a child simply won’t make those good choices by themselves. In the early days, implementing moderation in your child’s diet is key.

This is as simple as making sure that their diet is balanced – with high-quality food, lots of nutrients, and exposing their palate to a wide variety of healthy foods. There are only two rules:

  1. Don’t let your kid eat too much – or too much low-quality – food.
  2. Provide a wide variety of foods and prevent ‘fussy’ eating.

From here it’s as simple as giving them the knowledge and behavioural tools they need.

Long-Term Family Nutrition

Once you’ve raised non-fussy eaters, the process of improving a child’s diet is twofold:

  1. Help them understand the way nutrition works and educate them on the specifics
  2. Assist them in developing a positive relationship with food to avoid disordered eating

A simple introduction to nutrition and diet should be provided for every child. Our education system doesn’t see fit to include one, so it’s a parent’s job. It doesn’t need to be a difficult process: a child only needs to know the basics of what calories are, what the macronutrients are, and the importance of vitamins and minerals.

Dealing with disordered eating is a bit more complicated. However, dealing with the triggers are the easiest way to combat these bad habits: don’t let food be an emotional process. Emotional eating underlies every eating disorder – whether its using food to compensate for stress elsewhere in life or becoming guilty for eating too much.

This is the hard part, but it is crucial with the sheer volume of eating disorders we’re seeing in recent generations. Dealing with stress at the source and developing good relationships with food (as fuel, not comfort) is crucial. This, however, is a whole topic by itself and a challenge for your specific child.

Developing good habits is the most important part of rising children to be healthy, fit human. Behaviour change and the value of these changes are the real goal with family fitness. Spend time bonding with your child through activity and sport – and equip them with the best tools and knowledge possible for their long-term development.

The time you invest now will be paid back thousands of times when it comes time for your children to make their own choices about food and exercise in the future. This is the real challenge and responsibility of parents.