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START a healthy habit

How to get started

We live in a world where making healthy decisions for our children is really challenging. Changing our family’s diet and lifestyle is a process, not a one-off event. These tips will help you make that start and put you and your children on the road to a healthier future.  

1. Decide on one change 

Choose one key area to change and start small. Be realistic about what your family can do. 

Think of a goal. For example you could: 

  • Change from sugary breakfast cereal to wholemeal breakfast cereal on weekdays. 
  • Drink water with dinner instead of sugary drinks. 
  • Have a treat free day 

You can gradually build on these healthy changes. 

2. Make a plan 

Be clear and realistic about what you are going to achieve. Think about when, where and how to achieve your goal. Make some preparations. For example: 

  • If you want a better sleep routine, plan a gentle wind-down and set a clear bedtime.  
  • If you want to increase fruit and vegetables at dinner time, plan your meals at the beginning of the week 
  • If you want to reduce treats, make sure to include healthy snacks in your shop so you have alternatives 

3. Talk to your child about this change 

Talk to your child about what you are going to change and why. Children accept change much better when they know what is happening and are involved. 

Decide on one or two simple rules to help your children through the change. 

Be positive. Your rules should tell your child what to do instead of what not to do. For example: 

  • "We are going to have a healthy snack after school." 
  • "We are going to sit at the table together to eat breakfast every morning." 
  • "We are going to turn off the TV one hour before bed." 

4. Get family, friends and carers on board 

Tell your friends, family or other adults who spend a lot of time with your child that you are making some changes and ask them to help. 

Explain to them your concerns and your reasons for changing. Be firm and clear about the new rules and their role in making a positive change for your children. 

5. Be consistent and stick with it 

It can be hard to make a change but it does get easier. Children can kick back and refuse to go along with the change. In a busy family life, it can be difficult and very tempting to give up. But if you stick to your rules and approach, you child will come around and accept the change. 

6. Praise and encourage your child 

Praise your child for the effort they put into making the change, rather than focusing on the change itself. For example congratulate your child for trying new vegetables even if they don’t eat all of them. 

And getting kids involved in the decisions around food and preparing food helps them feel valued and encourages them to have a good relationship with food. 

7. Parenting is tough, but you are tougher 

It is tough to make changes around healthy eating and being active as a family. But small steps and daily wins are important for your child’s health and well-being. If you set a realistic goal, then you know you can do this. Keep telling yourself that you can. Think about those days that went well and how you managed them. 

8. Celebrate success 

When you achieve your goal, no matter how big or small, take a moment to appreciate what you have achieved. Making changes takes time and effort and you deserve to acknowledge this. Your efforts are helping to set them up for a healthier life both now and the rest of their lives. 

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