by Jenny Atkins, LiveLighter nutritionist and busy mum

Family enjoying a bike ride

The summer holidays have come to an end, and it’s time to iron out the indulgent holiday habits and get back to a healthy family routine!

As a parent, I know that kids thrive on routine. If you make the routine a healthy one, then you are helping them establish lifelong healthy habits. Routine makes for a happy family as it minimises misbehaviour; the kids know what to expect and what is expected of them!

So what is a healthy family routine? Put simply, it is choosing healthier ways in your day-to-day living and setting good examples for the family to follow.

Here are our top tips for a healthy family routine:

1. Move – as much as you can!

  • If you have a family pet, you can get into the habit of taking the dog out for a morning walk.
  • Use active transport – kids can walk, cycle or scoot to school. If you need to drive, park so that the kids have a little way to walk into the school grounds. Adults can cycle into work, or catch public transport and get off at an earlier stop to walk into the office.
  • Pick enjoyable activities: When it is an activity you like, staying healthy and active becomes easy. My husband and I swim while our daughter does her swimming classes, then we stay on for family play time in the pool.
  • Exercise doesn’t have to be expensive. In the comfort of your own home, walk up and down stairs, do laps around the house, dance to music or grab an exercise DVD from the library.
  • It doesn’t have to only be structured activities – riding our bikes to nearby playgrounds gives us family time together and also counts towards our 30 minutes of daily exercise.

2. Make good food choices and eat well

  • Foods of different colours are fun for your eyes but also have health benefits. Not every meal needs to be multi-coloured, but include a range of fruit and vegetables from these groups into your day: red, green, blue/purple, yellow/orange, and white and brown.
  • Try menu planning – work out what you want to eat for the week. It’s easier to make it a healthy recipe if you’ve planned for it!
  • Create healthy snacking habits by having bowls of fruit, vegetable pieces, nuts or dried fruit available.
  • Prepare lunchbox snacks the night before. This will prevent processed pre-packaged snacks being thrown into lunchboxes during the morning rush. You will also have more time in the evening to create interesting snacks such as choose your own adventure muffins or sandwich alternatives such as rainbow pasta salad.
  • Have regular meal times. When kids eat too many snacks during the day, they are likely to be too full to eat their dinner.

3. Drink water, not sugary drinks

  • It is as simple as teaching your family that water is healthy and sugary drinks are not. Water should always be the first choice to quench thirst.

4. Everyone is involved

  • There are many ways everyone can be involved; from meal planning, to food shopping, food preparation, cooking and cleaning. I am certainly much happier when the rest of the family join in and help.
  • Kids can do chores. Seriously. They. Can. Find age appropriate tasks e.g. five year olds can set the table, teenagers can hang out the washing, and everyone can help with cleaning up. Make it a game and see how many things you can each put away in five minutes!

5. Less technology

  • Is technology taking over your family? We live in an age where technology is entwined into our daily habits. Those with teenagers may be met with large-eyed stares of disbelief when you ask them to put their devices down. Look at small steps to wean yourself and your family off technology, such as tech-free meal times, or Friday Family Fun night where you play board games or head out for a picnic dinner in the park. Win the small battles and we’ll be working towards a win in the war… Fingers crossed!

If you have a think about your daily routine, I am sure you already have many healthy habits. I hope these tips will help you and your family simplify and enjoy life a little more.

Routines don’t happen overnight. They need to be established and then consistently maintained. Pick one to concentrate on. An easy one is to start planning healthy meals. Here are two meal plans to help you get started.