After the late nights, lax rules and endless eating of the holidays, the start of the new year is the perfect time to make healthy changes to your family routine.
Your first resolution should be to take it slow: Instead of grand promises, tackle 10 little new year's resolutions for healthier kids -- easy-to-stick-with habits that add up, automatically, to help your kids feel strong and happy.
10. Power up each morning. Every day should start with a balanced, protein-packed breakfast -- from oatmeal to smoothies with protein powder -- to start the day right, says Dr. Barry Sears, research scientist and author of Toxic Fat: When Good Fat Turns Bad and The Zone
9. Stop to wash. Along with your kids, wash your hands before every meal. Sears says excess microbes wear down immunity and introduce illness.
8. Eat more dairy. Kids build about half of their adult bone mass during adolescence, so bolster their calcium intake with low-fat milk, yogurt and ice cream while you can.
7. Supplement with fish oil. While a kids' multivitamin each day helps make up for any nutrient shortfalls, Sears suggests also giving kids high-quality fish oil, which boasts the critical omega-3 fatty acids that most western diets lack.
6. Feed their minds. Ask your kids what they'd like to learn about each month, then schedule some time together -- at a museum, the beach or the library -- to boost their curiosity and imagination.
5. Skip the soda. Sears' advice: Drink less of the nutritionally-empty filler by replacing it with flavored carbonated water, which regulates body temperature and lubricates joints.
4. Simplify snacking. Buy precut or bite-sized fruits and vegetables and store them in snack bags in the refrigerator so healthy snacks are always available. Plus, young kids love sorting and counting equal amounts, so they'll have fun while loading up on vitamins.
3. Get an outdoor mood-boost. Go for regular hikes to find natural treasures. Walk the family dog each day, or bicycle to the library. Breathing fresh air, basking in sunshine and feeling grounded in the natural world around us lift everyone's mood.
2. Floss every night. Even if your kids can't manage flossing alone, do it with them each night. The help now will protect their teeth and gums and build a healthy lifelong habit.
1. Get un-busy. "We live in a society blessed to have so many activities that we often get into the mindset that more is better. But more isn't better; more is just more," says child development expert Maureen Healy, author of the upcoming book Growing Happy Kids: How to Develop Inner Confidence, Success, and Happiness. Protect free playtime every day (for young children) or try Time-out Thursdays, when your whole family chills together at home.
They might not seem like much, but the small steps you take now will ensure a healthier year for your kids -- and you.
Victoria Scalan Stefanako shas written for numerous publications and websites, including Martha Stewart Living, Real Simple and iVillage.com.
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