Family Matters #16: Teaching Healthy Lifestyles

By Lucia Ferrara

Lifestyles are different for every family. Cultures are different, including food, rituals, and just simply everyday ways of life. The mission of Be Strong Families is to partner with like-minded organizations “to develop transformative conversations that nurture the spirit of family, promote well-being and prevent violence.”

Precious Blood Renewal Center joined a few other local groups using curriculum from Be Strong Families to host a series of Parent Cafes (something we hope to resume as soon as we can do that safely). I believe that following its mission is a way we as parents can build protective factors that keep children healthy, safe and strong.

Some things parents can do to help their children is to examine their lives and replace negative attitudes and behaviors with positive attitudes and behaviors and to make the positive part of their daily habits. Remember, as parents, we teach our children first by example.

With this in mind, I’d like to focus today’s column on two aspects of daily life, eating and exercise.

We all know that we need to eat good food and exercise regularly. We all know this, but too many of us dismiss these by making excuses: “I don’t have time to exercise.” “I hate to walk alone; it’s fun to walk with someone, but nobody wants to come along.” “I don’t have time to prepare a home-cooked meal.” “Eating only healthy food is too expensive.” “Eating only healthy food gets boring.”

Let’s stop making these excuses. Remember, we lead by example.

For our kids to be healthy, happy and strong, they need to exercise and eat food that is good for them. As parents, we can begin instilling these habits with simple things, like ensuring that our kids’ meals are healthy and arranging for them to be active. It’s time we focus and promote a healthy lifestyle.

All the articles in the Family Matters series are available here.

Ways to model a healthy lifestyle around food are to prepare a menu for the week and have the kids help. Together you can figure out what sounds good to eat and is healthy for everyone. I do this with my family all the time. Sometimes we take turns making menus, and we come up with different meal plans that are fun and tasty, but most importantly healthy.

Eating at home is definitely less expensive and healthier than eating out. Making a meal plan ensures that fruits and vegetables are included for snacks and at meals. A plan also helps you limit eating processed food and fast food. And it doesn’t have to be boring! We include things like ice cream, chips and desserts sometimes just to satisfy those cravings on special occasions.

This can also help with teaching children about budgeting, because you only buy what is on that list.

We cannot forget about exercise. Find places and ways your kids can play with each other and maybe with you. For example, a walk in the neighborhood can become a family affair after dinner. Take your pets for a walk too; they are, after all, part of the family! You are not only getting exercise but also spending quality time together, you can spark conversations that maybe you wouldn’t any other time. Maybe you go bike riding on a Saturday morning after breakfast on a bike trail, another great idea.

Another idea is limiting screen time on phones, televisions, computers and game systems. Instead encourage your kids to play outside, read a book, play board or card games or engage in creative art.

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This all boils down to keeping our children healthy — spiritually, physically and emotionally. Let’s all begin this new year by making healthy choices for ourselves and our families. Make this a priority and figure out what works best for your schedule and family. It may take a few tries but you can be very successful at it, and the results are definitely worth the effort! I leave you with a few questions for discussion and reflections to have with your family until the next time.

1. Make a list of barriers that are keeping you from providing a healthy lifestyle for you and your family.

2. Discuss with your kids ways to entertain themselves without screens.

3. Write down three positive goals you can commit to doing as individuals and as a family. Then, write down three negative things you can commit to stop doing to promote a healthy lifestyle as individuals and as families.

[Lucia Ferrara is the Director of Hospitality at Precious Blood Renewal Center and the lead organizer here of Parent Cafes. Share your thoughts with Lucia or ask her questions by using the form below or sending an email to Read more about the Parent Café here.]

Image © by LillyCantabile from Pixabay

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