Shape Up, Family Style

by the editors of Parenting magazine, for USA WEEKEND Magazine

Shape Up, Family Style

Here, 8 ways you can get your family in the groove to lead healthier lives:

Exercise together
Only about 36% of kids get an hour of exercise five days a week, and just one in three adults gets 30 minutes of exercise each day. But making time for exercise is critical: It can slash a person’s chances of becoming overweight and lowers the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. So, walk your kids to school or run in the backyard together. Aim for an hour of moderate activity each day.

Be carb-conscious
Just like there are bad and good fats, there are bad (refined) and good (complex) carbs. Recent studies show the leanest people load up on the latter. Why do complex carbohydrates help? Probably because they’re rich in fiber, so they’re digested more slowly and keep people satisfied longer than refined carbs do. For your next snack attack, try low-fat yogurt with granola, or bananas with peanut butter.

Turn off the TV
What kids see on TV influences what they want to eat and drink  — even kids as young as 2 years old. With nearly 500 new food products targeted to children each year, it’s best to limit screen time in your house to two hours a day.

Indulge (a little)
A recent Pennsylvania State University study found that preschoolers whose parents were the most restrictive with treats were the ones who ate the most sweets and snacks when given the opportunity. Let your child (and yourself) have a scoop of ice cream every now and then. Indulgences are OK in moderation.

Use smaller plates
Bigger dishes lead to bigger portions  — 31% bigger, according to a recent study at Cornell University. If you use smaller dishes, then portions will follow suit. And, no matter what size the plates, don’t nag your kids to finish what’s on them. That way your children will learn to stop eating when they’re full.

Eat as a family
Families who sit down together for at least one meal each day eat more nutritiously than those who don’t. Yet only about 45% of all school-aged children dine with their parents once a day. If you can’t coordinate having dinner together (many busy families can’t), then aim for breakfast or lunch, which will have the same benefits.

When you’re stressed, you’re more likely to pack on pounds. Cortisol (a stress hormone) has been linked to a rise in sugar cravings and weight gain in adults and kids. So be sure to build in downtime for you both.