Fitness Buzz: A Family Affair! – Part 2

This article is from David Tacheny, founder of Performance Athletics, which is located on the Upper West Side.

A Family Affair

In my previous post, I covered some ideas and reasons for making exercise and activity part of the family dynamic and vice versa. This week I’d like to do the same with nutrition.

Whether we grew up on a farm with fresh everything or in the city with a pantry full of Campbell’s, Dole and Betty Crocker, we are each in a position to help our kids, ourselves, and others in our family, to eat healthy. I don’t need to tell you what healthy is. Any intelligent adult knows that fresh zucchini is better for you than canned baked beans. But, given the state of health education in this country, your kids might not know and older folks might feel indifferent. You can help teach them, even if they’re not your kids or older folks.

Start ‘em young! Little kids’ taste buds are super sensitive, which is why they often don’t like hot, bitter or pungent foods. As they grow up their pallets become less sensitive and more tolerable, but we need to teach them what’s “good” and why, and what’s “bad” and why.

We take our son shopping every week at a large market with lots of organic fruit and veggie options. We get the staples we all like (bananas, apples, strawberries, etc.) but, from time to time, we also offer him other options and let him pick a “special” new fruit or veggie. Kids can surprise you. One will love exotic fruits and stinky cheese and another will refuse anything but Skippy.  Don’t force your kid to eat anything, but also don’t forget to help her understand there are lots of healthy foods to help her grow strong and tall and she’s bound to like something. Remember to keep it fun for them! By the way, exposing your kids to new foods is a fantastic way to keep it interesting for you as well. Try new foods with your kids. Never had bok choy?  Buy a bunch and look up a recipe online that you can make together.

When it comes to teens, you run into all sorts of extra issues for a few years, most of them having absolutely nothing to do with what’s healthy or how something tastes. Try to involve teens as much as possible while respecting their desire for personal space. Appeal to their sense of pride. Cold water fish (salmon, herring, lite tuna) and fruits/veggies high in vitamin C are great for clearing up your skin! Give teens authority. Try putting them in charge of the dinner menu one night each week, but don’t be hurt when they drown your slaved-over creation in catsup the next, or just want to go to Burger King with friends. It’s not about your food, but try to make them aware of healthy choices so they can feel empowered themselves!

When it comes to older generations, or those outside your immediate family, I advocate emphasizing the novel, not preaching about how your way is healthier. Don’t start with “I’m making gluten-free, vegan, soy mac + cheese. It’s so much better than that Kraft stuff you make.” While true, they may have grown up on Kraft and like it. Try saying, “how do you like the double chocolate cake, uncle Hank?” When he nods his full-mouthed head in approval, then you can offer the story of finding information on gluten-free cooking online and trying this amazing recipe. A lot of today’s older adults grew up in a time when it was completely new, and much easier, to eat something from a can or box. It’s what they know and may still think is good for them. Don’t try to change their long-established behaviors. Respectfully re-introduce them to the pleasures and benefits of eating fresh healthy foods when you’re the one doing the cooking.

Families are the ones with whom we can share joys and pains. They are a source of inspiration and frustration. But families, in the end, are who we are closest to and that very personal environment can be a great place to begin, nurture, or extend healthy nutrition and exercise habits!  So, grab the fam and get movin’ and cookin’!

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