Our new year resolutions are invariably about becoming our best self, and this is the perfect time to prioritize your and your family’s health.
But take a moment and look back at what we’ve been through. I’m not talking economic or political stress, I’m talking COVID.
The pandemic really pushed us. We were homebound, anxious till the vaccines arrived, worrying about every social interaction. We were caring for the elderly as well as our children. For kids, who learn so much through school interaction, remote learning was a poor substitute. And we binge watched TV like never before, cooked and baked up a storm. We exercised less. Shopping was mostly online and we bought in bulk to minimize trips to stores.
And now we are back socializing, children are going to school and most of us have been travelling. There is a sense of urgency to enjoy and soak up family, travel and play.
We should recognize how fortunate we are to have our health and each other. It’s important to acknowledge our loss during this pandemic, but make plans so we do not dwell on it.
Let’s keep the wellness goals of our family at the forefront.
In my office, I see children who have gained weight due to increased eating and lack of activity. They think they have poor self-control. This is misguided, because society was already in transition before COVID arrived. Technology crept into our lives, our habits changed. The food industry changed our relationship to food. Never in human history were calories so easily available and so cheaply. Fat free and sugar free became watchwords rather than nutritious and sustaining.
So if we want to change our diet, it has to be simple, fun and easy to put into action. I suggest…
- Three balanced meals with 1-2 snacks in between.
- Start with a lean protein, add vegetables and then an unprocessed grain.
- Good fat is good for you, such as avocado, nuts, unsaturated oils, but watch the portion, they are calorie dense.
- Try organic, when possible. For vegetables, do check out the freezer section of your store.
- During winter, soups are a good way to provide adequate nutrition without laboring over the stove for hours.
- Think of snacks as mini meals. Try fruit and nuts and if possible, add plant-based protein like hummus.
- Watch portions and limit variety: For example, if you have 3 desserts, folks want to sample them all. Make one and pair it with fruit. Apple pie and ice cream are two desserts, sorry!
- Be creative: Lay the table in a pretty way and serve food restaurant style. Kids can help.
- All physical activity is exercise. Try to keep it fun. Use any exercise machines you have. Better yet, dance! turn up the volume and ask your teenager to select the music and let them join you for as long as they want. Try ten minutes. Hopefully, with music of their choice, the ten minutes will become fifteen or longer. Just look for participation. Be patient, teenagers and young children want to make you happy but fear failure.
- Watch family movies once a week and let children pick something they think you will like. Be appreciative, do not criticize, they brought you a gift from their world, enjoy it!
- Play a board game once a week.
We want our children to be the best version of themselves through proper nutrition and physical activity. Let them eat what will help them achieve their genetic potential and eliminate the foods that slow down this process.
It’s a new year, a natural time for a new beginning. What story will you write this year?
Madhu Mathur MD, MPH
Lifestyle Medicine Center
Dr. Madhu Mathur is a pediatrician and an obesity medicine physician. She has been working on obesity related issues since 2004. Dr Mathur has been a strong advocate for public health and she has been honored for her work. Since 2014 she has been working with individual families addressing obesity in children, focussing mainly on lifestyle intervention. Her work focuses on changing behavior using the latest research and scientific methods to address lipid disorders, prediabetes, and other conditions while improving body composition with weight loss.