4 ways to create a healthy family lifestyle

Teach your kids to love fresh food, try new things and enjoy running around in the fresh air.

They say the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings is the biggest job anyone can embark on. They also say parents are the last people on earth who should have children.

Despite these paradoxical impossibilities, we march on with our endeavours to give our kids the best upbringing possible.

From both a personal and Accredited Practising Dietitian standpoint, these are my nutrition and physical activity must-haves. (Warning: there is a good dose of opinion here!)

1. Enjoy a happy and healthy mealtime routine (especially in the evenings)

Amidst the hurricane of parenthood, and especially during the ‘witching hour’ in the evenings – a time where the bath, evening meal and bedtime routine becomes somehow apocalyptic – it is understandable that mealtime enjoyment at the dinner table can sometimes be lost.

With long working hours and after school care, for some families the evening meal may be seen as the one opportunity where parents and kids can sit and celebrate their day, and do so by enjoying a wide variety of food.

This author’s evening meal vibe is usually one of curiosity – both about the food we are eating and also about what has happened in our day. It is almost definitely a time to have a laugh and it nearly always ends on a good note.

2. Encourage food play

Just like being curious around our food, it is essential for kids to play with their food. For fussy little ones, it is well known that we should patiently persist with serving up those ‘disliked’ (read: unfamiliar) foods over and over again, until the fear of the new is worn down. For toddlers and children, experiencing, interacting with and touching unfamiliar foods is pivotal in wearing down the fussiness.

Because one child’s nutrition can be seen as a blank canvas starting with limited variety, it is paramount that each meal and snack involves a new food experience. And this is usually done through playing with their tucker. Many a Lego man has been covered in food in this household!

Sometimes ending the meal on a high can be a child taking a lick or a bite of an unfamiliar food, usually a vegetable. Another food experience – tick!

“For some families the evening meal may be seen as the one opportunity where parents and kids can sit together and celebrate their day.”

3. Get the kids involved, from garden to plate

Living in the country, we have the luxury of having a big veggie garden full of seasonal produce. Apart from the long hot summers which sizzle anything in our patch, we get a good harvest and the kids enjoy being involved in production. From watering (or should I say water fighting?) to picking and proudly bringing in the vegetables to the kitchen, our little ones love it.

In a consumerist, globalised food environment, it is so important that we continue to grow our own produce where possible. From pots of herbs to small transportable veggie patches, anyone can do it. And to involve our youngsters in home-growing vegetables and fruit is to plant the seed for a rosy, semi-sustainable future.

4. Limit screen-time, especially during daylight hours

With so much technology around these days, it’s easy for all members of my family to get bogged down with screen time. Thus we try to have set windows for screen-time before school, before bathtime and before bedtime.?This coincides with getting our little jumping beans to get dressed and do other chores in the morning, and also to enable lots of active play during daylight hours.

Where we live, we are just coming out of another mean winter. Short days, mostly grey, and a lot of rain for the crops around the area. To help our little ones get their vitamin D, to blow off some steam, to enhance their life experiences and to give Mum a rest, the kids usually head off outside after school until sunset. We find this mostly achieves all these aims and then some.

It’s too easy these days to get lost in the grind of careers and timelines. And these things matter, no doubt. But the importance of growing healthy kids supersedes, as best as possible, any of this. If you have any queries about the nutritional health of your little ones, be sure to check in with an Accredited Practising Dietitan. There is most likely one at your local hospital or community health centre.

Recommended reading - Issue Two Summer 2012

Experts

What you can do to reduce your risk of dementia

Being socially active, managing weight and exercising are some ways to reduce the risk of dementia.

Read more
Travel

Active travel in the great outdoors

We share some of our favourite things to do in America's incredible national parks.

Read more
Experts

Cutting your cancer risk

A diet rich in unprocessed grains and meats, fruits and veggies can reduce your risk of cancer.

Read more
Experts

Sun safety: How to protect your skin this summer

Keep your skin safe and healthy while you're enjoying the beautiful outdoors.

Read more
Community

Expert advice to help you swim, bike, run

Danielle Stefano from the Victorian Institute of Sport shares some advice for your first triathlon.

Read more
Travel

Hitting the road with your pet

Bringing your pet with you on a trip makes exploring new surrounds double as fun!

Read more
Travel

Auckland – Top 10 city to visit in 2014

Making Lonely Planet's 'Best In Travel' for 2014, we highlight the best spots to visit in Auckland.

Read more
Recipes

Vietnamese salad recipe

A fresh, healthy summer salad that’s perfect for lunches.

Read more
Recipes

Simple berry bircher recipe

A bircher muesli that takes 2 minutes to prepare - leave overnight and enjoy for breakfast.

Read more
Community

A chef’s travels with Peter Kuruvita

Peter shares his most memorable food experience and what inspires his cooking over summer.

Read more
Recipes

Barbecued island beef recipe

A dish inspired by coconuts and green pastures

Read more
Lifestyle

Salsa verde recipe

This classic condiment by Peter Kuruvita is great with anything, especially barbecued meat

Read more
Lifestyle

Snapping the journey

There’s nothing like travelling the world and documenting the journey.

Read more
Community

The history of the ambulance

Medibank health humorist Nick Snelling explores the history of the ambulance.

Read more
Recipes

Cucumber and corn salsa recipe

A refreshing corn salsa perfect for summer.

Read more
Community

Double power in the kitchen: Isabella and Sofia Bliss

Talented twins share summer favourites and why it’s important for children to grow up cooking.

Read more
Recipes

Prawn ravioli with tomato, rocket and lemon sauce recipe

A mouth-watering prawn ravioli recipe from junior Masterchef stars.

Read more
Lifestyle

Protect your pet this summer

RSPCA shares its top tips for keeping your pet safe this summer.

Read more
Experts

Chinese medicine for the four seasons: Summer

Advice from Dr. Katie Molloy on how to make a healthy transition from spring to summer.

Read more
Community

Made by athletes for athletes

2XU co-founder Jamie Hunt talks about product development and changes in compression technology.

Read more
Experts

9 post-exercise recovery tips

Professor David Cameron-Smith shares nine simple ways to reduce muscle pain and speed up recovery.

Read more
Experts

The importance of bowel cancer screening

How a simple test can help detect bowel cancer, one of the most preventable forms of cancer.

Read more
Recipes

Pettole (Italian fruit donuts) recipe

A delicious treat by Junior Masterchef stars Sofia and Isabella Bliss

Read more
Community

Swim, bike, run this summer

From Caloundra to Latrobe, discover the events that can help you get ready for triathlon season.

Read more
Travel

Auckland’s east and west

Beyond Auckland’s city limits, there is so much waiting for you to explore.

Read more
Community

Your first triathlon: Tips from Brendan Sexton

Olympian Brendan Sexton shares some helpful advice for your first triathlon.

Read more
Community

Healing hands

Four surgeons across four medical specialties reveal their tools of the trade.

Read more
Community

Health matters with Ita Buttrose

Ita Buttrose raises awareness of the importance of good health.

Read more
Community

Music and the mind with Something for Kate

Paul Dempsey shares how he handles the mental and physical pressures of being a musician.

Read more
Community

Australian Open

A highlight of the sporting calendar, the Australian Open is set to thrill spectators once again.

Read more
Community

Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Ironman & Ironwoman Series

Watch top athletes from around the country compete in one the world's most gruelling competitions.

Read more
Community

Putting on a grand slam

Craig Tiley reveals what goes on behind the scenes to host an event like the Australian Open.

Read more
Lifestyle

Latest health and lifestyle gadgets

Keep your finger on the pulse with these health and lifestyle gadgets.

Read more
Lifestyle

Health shelf – Lisa Weightman

Whether it's on the track or in the office, Lisa Weightman knows how to set—and reach—her goals.

Read more
Lifestyle

Visualising health with Courtney Hancock

Courtney Hancock comes from stellar sporting history and is the 2011 Australian Ironwoman champion.

Read more
In Brief

be. magazine Summer 2012

The summer edition of Medibank be. magazine is here to inspire, motivate and encourage.

Read more
Community

Nike+ SportsWatch GPS

Medibank member Kim reviews the Nike+ SportWatch GPS.

Read more
Community

A couple of sports stars – Trent Copeland and Kim Green

Competitive even in marriage, Kim Green and Trent Copeland have learned to love each other's sport.

Read more
Community

Working to achieve better health

People who undertake jobs that contribute to a healthier life find fulfilment in them.

Read more
In Brief

Health Parks, Healthy People

Summer is a great time to exercise in our many leafy parks and urban gardens.

Read more
In Brief

Watsi

How you can donate life-saving medical treatments to people in need.

Read more
In Brief

Bright Hearts

Design and medicine combine to help sick kids.

Read more
Community

Unpacking the role of a dietitian

What is a consultation with a dietician like?

Read more
In Brief

Super-sized soda ban in New York

Bigger is apparently not better as super sized sodas are banned in New York.

Read more
Community

Celebrate Health

A healthy flavoursome teriyaki sauce without the added nasties.

Read more
Lifestyle

Health Shelf – Jenna O’Hea

Jenna O'Hea discusses some of her favourite books, from inspirational memoirs to fantasy novels.

Read more

For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are instructions on how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.