Karl Henry: 'Lecturing your children about health without leading by example is no good. The family unit has to get fit as a whole, together'
I recently had an email from a concerned parent, wondering how she could motivate her children to exercise more and spend less time watching TV. To be honest, it's the type of email I receive several times a month.
The family unit is so important, yet the reality is that households all over Ireland are struggling to get healthy.
With the Easter break coming I thought now is an ideal time to bring you my top tips to help you get fit as a family.
* Firstly, it's important to note that lecturing your children about health without leading by example yourself is no good. The family unit has to get fit as a whole, together. If you aren't prepared to improve your own health then it's unfair to lecture others to do the same.
* It starts with what comes into the house. The food that goes into your trolley in the supermarket is crucial. You need to be firm that certain foods don't make it in. If it's not sitting around, the temptation isn't there and your family won't eat it.
* Change the colour of the foods you're bring into your house and putting on to your plate. Aim for as many colours as possible, with lots of brown wholegrain carbohydrates and plenty of fruit and vegetables. l Eliminate drinks and cordials that contain sugar and instead go with water or add fruit to your water to flavour it.
* Nominate everyone their own 'cook day' and freeze the leftovers. Education is so important when it comes to health, so why not build a solid foundation with your children by asking each member of the house to cook one meal each week? Research the recipe, get the ingredients and cook the meal. Not only is it healthier but it is also giving a tool for life.
* In terms of exercise, have a car-free day once a week or ensure to only use the car for trips longer than a certain distance. This increases the amount of walking you do as a family.
* Nominate a different family activity each weekend that each family member gets to pick. Ireland has so many activities to choose from, so you can choose a new one each weekend or once a month and then allow each family member the opportunity to choose. l
* Set family targets. Get together as a family and set a weight loss target or a fitness target and put a reward in place for when you achieve it.
* Eat together at the table each day. A simple yet very effective tool for not only health but also for improving communication within the family.
Fitness tip of the week
Change one small thing daily. More often that not, people aim to make huge changes to their health, looking to see drastic changes overnight. This tends to lead to short-term change - but in the long term people fall off the wagon as it's just too hard. Instead, try to make one small change each day that will improve your health and help you to work towards your goal. It's the small changes over time that lead to long- term health.