Habits Healthy Families Always Have

Having a healthy family life can boost your chance of living longer. Here's how to maximize this amazing health asset with healthy habits.

Habits Healthy Families Always Have

Having a healthy family life can boost your chance of living longer. Here's how to maximize this amazing health asset with healthy habits.

30 September 2017 Saturday 16:01
Habits Healthy Families Always Have

They snack smart

Having a healthy family life can lower risk of heart attack and boost your chance of living longer. Here's how to maximize this amazing health asset.

'Parents can influence their child's food preferences and how well their brain functions with healthy food choices. Research tells us children can have a hard time learning on processed foods. Moms and dads can make it a point to purchase a wide variety of whole foods instead of cookies, crackers, or sodas for an afternoon snack. I make sure our afternoon snacks include organic fruits and veggies such as apples, nut butter, celery, hummus, grapes, avocados, bananas, spinach and raw pumpkin seeds.' —Connie Rogers, Certified Integrative Nutritional Holistic Health Coach and author

They eat slowly

'Healthy families don't rush or stress when it's time to eat. As a mother of two children, we use calm voices and music at the table, and focus on healthy digestion when it's time to eat. We also model healthy eating by not shoveling or inhaling our food, making a point to chew after every bite. This one habit ensures we take the necessary time to enjoy the taste, colors, and aromas of what we eat.' This is a good time to practice mindful eating habits.—Connie Rogers

They care for their elders in a loving way

'Caring for an elderly loved one is a wonderful way to show compassion and service, and it doesn't mean you have to sacrifice everything. Healthy families have boundaries with aging parents and grandparents. They thoroughly think through the potential impact of moving an aging parent into the home or providing extended care. Kids and marriages can be powerfully impacted by how these decisions are handled, both negatively and positively. A good boundary with an aging parent who moves in, for example, might be that the parents and small children will do occasional outings as a nuclear family.' (Thinking about taking on this responsibility? Read our crash course on elder care first.) —Jennifer L. FitzPatrick, MSW, licensed social worker and author of Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring For Your Loved One

They put the marital relationship first

'Healthy families prioritize the marriage first, over any other relationship—including the kids. Whether it's having a daily glass of wine after the kids are in bed or a monthly date, they commit to some non-negotiable ritual. When the spouses in the marriage are connecting and communicating, everyone will be happier and healthier.' —Jennifer L. FitzPatrick

They turn off the devices when they're together

'They spend time together on activities that don't involve electronics. (Plus all thosescreens may be ruining your eyesight!) While watching TV together can be relaxing and offer opportunities for teachable moments, it's important to identify activities in which everyone can participate on their own level and also promotes conversation. These family activities create tangible bonds as well as lasting memories.' —Lori Ben-Ezra, PhD, a south Florida psychologist

They celebrate each other's victories

'Healthy, happy families find a way for each child to stand out within the family. They identify their talent and find activities in which each can find success. They then celebrate those victories in a public family forum, whether it be around the dinner table or during the appropriate family activity.' —Lori Ben-Ezra

They cook together

'Making dinner and having a meal as a family should be much more than just cooking and eating. It starts with the cooking, which the entire family can take part in. Preparing a unique healthy meal requires every family member to participate in the shopping, preparing, and cooking process. This journey from vegetable and herb aisle to the kitchen and ending around the dinner table can be a life changing learning experience around nutrition and health.' —Dean Sherzai, MD, PhD, and Ayesha Sherzai, MD, authors of The Alzheimer's Solution

They have great dinner conversation

'The dinner table experience should be just as much about conversation as about consuming delicious and nutritious meals. The conversation could be about a topic that interests the family and provokes thinking, and is often led by the person who has prepared about their topic of interest. Other family members can ask their questions so the presenter learns to improve their presentations, and also how to prepare for complex questions and thoughts.' —The Sherzais

They take morning walks together

'There are few things that are as beneficial to overall health as a brisk morning walk with the family. It energizes everyone for the rest of the day, creates a positive mood, reduces anxiety and depression, increases metabolism, and improves sleep.' —The Sherzais

They have a safety plan

'Safety is always a concern and so parents should make it a priority to have open discussions with each other and with children in an age-appropriate way about how to stay safe. Whether it is the position a baby sleeps in, immunizations to prevent illnesses, children playing with fireworks, teens with drugs or sex, drinking and driving, or other hot button issues, the constant theme is that a safety plan is an important part of good health.' —David Cutler, MD, family medicine physician at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, CA

They play games together

'Adults can model good sportsmanship and exercise by joining in when their kids play tag, soccer, run around the park, or even do an 'exergame' session like Wii Fit together. Showing kids how much fun an activity can be helps them have more fun and be more interested in the activity.' —Melissa Halas-Liang, registered dietitian nutritionist, dietitian at SuperKidsNutrition.com

They create fun family traditions

'Healthy families create unique family traditions. Having a regular board game night, taco Tuesday, or a weekly trip to the movies not only helps them spend time together but creates opportunities for conversation and making great memories.' —Kelsey Torgerson, MSW, licensed social worker at Compassionate Counseling St. Louis

They manage stress together

'They make time for relaxation at the end of the day, incorporating some family yoga, mindfulness practice, or even just reading a story together at bed time with your younger ones. Make sure that everyone is checking in with and then addressing their stress levels, this benefits both physical and mental health.' —Kelsey Torgerson

They have screen-free days

'We have Screen free Sundays in our family so that we can focus on having fun and building connection with one another without the distractions. Turning off our technology frees us up to do much healthier things for our minds, bodies, and our relationships with one another.' —Amy Carney, parenting expert and family blogger

They put the 'active' in 'activity'

'Plan family activities that include movement. It doesn't have to be straight 'exercise,' but going to a museum, a park, a beach, or a zoo promotes better health than going to a movie (where popcorn and soda are almost always present!). The entire family gets exercise and quality time together.' —Laura Arndt, certified personal trainer specializing in families and co-founder of Matriarc

They have family finance meetings

'Creating regular, disciplined meetings about family finances can take the heat out of money arguments. It's also important to have honest conversations about how family members' emotions are tied to spending and saving habits and how the family can work together to accomplish their financial goals.' —Joe Duran, CEO of United Capital

They never eat alone

'In our crazy, overscheduled world, this may seem impossible, but if you make it a rule that nobody in the family eats alone, it helps physical and mental health. This may mean that one parent waits to eat with a child who is at a sports practice until late while the other parent eats with another child who gets home earlier and is hungry. You have to find the algorithm that works for your family. Also, technology doesn't count as company so get everyone at the table to turn off their devices and put away books and newspapers.' —Liza Baker, health coach, professionally trained chef, and cookbook author

They dream big

'Come up with a wish list of 10 things that you would do, buy, meet, or have if you had a billion dollars and no time constraints. Encourage kids to think big and be as crazy as they like. Children as young as 3 get a kick out of playing this game and it helps families learn about each other as well as make goals together.' —Becky Blake

They give back together

'Doing community service together is one of the best ways to build family unity while teaching core values. Find something family friendly like volunteering picking up trash at the beach or working at a food bank.' —Becky Blake

They fight fair

'Healthy families will create a safe environment for healthy communication, where each individual feels like their feelings are acknowledged and validated. When conflict inevitably arises, they don't have to agree with each other but they still need to acknowledge each other's feelings. They know they can have conflict and still feel their opinion is valued. They also learn tools for how conflicts can be resolved. No one shuts down, runs away, or rages when there is disagreement. They work it out.' —Thomas Gagliano

They aren't controlling

'Healthy families don't try to control their children's behavior. Instead of micromanaging every detail, parents supply their children with the tools necessary to control their own behavior. For example, we want our children to say no to drugs because they understand the risks and want to say no to drugs, not just to please us. Eventually children will be on their own anyhow so we need to teach them the skills to be independent.' —Thomas Gagliano

They vacation on the regular

'Healthy families take vacations often. Spending time together as a family in a fun, relaxing atmosphere binds family together. It gives the opportunity for deep conversations, teaching moments and laughter. Spending time with the family in a relaxing atmosphere reduces stress and improves mental and physical health.' —Lilia Arnest, Holistic Nutrition Consultant

Updated: 02.10.2017 12:39
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