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Five Great Family Nutrition Habits

Being healthy (or being unhealthy) is really just a result of the sum of our habits; the more healthy habits we have, the more likely we will benefit by having good health. The good news about habits is that they can be developed or changed, with a little focus and a plan.

Challenge your family to develop at least one healthy habit. It's best to work on one habit that the family agrees on. Remember that it takes at least three weeks of doing something for it to become a "habit." Keeping the focus on building one habit at a time allows you to have a plan without becoming overwhelmed.

Here are five great nutrition-related habits you may want to work on as a family:

Cook at home more. When we make our own food, rather than relying on a restaurant or take out, we tend to eat healthier. The food we make at home tends to be lower in fat, have less sodium, and tends to offer more in the way of fruits and vegetables. If you are a take-out kind of family, begin by cutting down slowly. For example, if you tend to grab fast food four nights a week, start by cutting down to two or three nights a week. You may need to work on building up your "go-to" recipes; a rotation of about 5 to 10 recipes that you can "go-to" on busy nights. These are the dishes that you know your family likes and that are easy to make. Challenge yourself to find healthy recipes that you can put into your core rotation.

Make family meals a family priority. The research behind family meals is strong and convincing: kids that eat most meals with their family tend to eat better and also tend to have higher self-esteem and do better in school! Even if you just picked up a take-out meal, make it a family meal by turning off the TV and sitting down to eat together.

Add a fruit or vegetable to every meal. The powerhouses of the nutrition world are fruits and vegetables, hands down. Make it a habit to always have at least one fruit or vegetable at each meal; canned and frozen can help fill in the gaps between grocery store visits. Once you have covered the meals for awhile, move on to building the habit of snacking on fruits or vegetables at least once a day. Involve your kids by allowing them to shop with you in the produce aisle or by helping them to start their own vegetable garden.

Bring kids into the kitchen. Teaching kids how to feel comfortable in the kitchen and giving them basic cooking skills is one of the most important ways to prepare them for living on their own. Invite your kids into the kitchen while you're preparing food by offering them small jobs or simply allowing them to watch. Although this may be slightly more time consuming (and messier), the payoff is worth it. In addition to learning about cooking and food, the kitchen offers lessons in science, math, and even reading!

Go for a walk together. In some cultures, taking a walk after a meal is something everyone does. Taking an evening walk as a family is a great habit to build for several reasons: it helps burn off extra calories, helps teach kids how to be active, and it gives an uninterrupted chance to talk. Other options may be to dance together, go for a bike ride, or to go for a family swim.

For more information, visit PBS Parents.

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