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Buck the fast food, fast pace, convenience trends and lead your family towards a happier, healthier lifestyle.

By Sooji Rugh, M.D., GreenLite Medicine

Let me get you started with a few creative ideas. 

Can the Soda, Jilt the Juice
If you do anything, anything at all, get rid of the soda! According to a recent study by The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, just two cans of soda a day can add inches, create blood sugar and triglycerides trouble, increase risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, and kidney damage. Diet soda isn’t really any better, so it’s best to migrate your family towards other alternatives.  Think that substituting juices for sodas or sports drinks are better choices? Take a close look at the labels—they are filled with sugar too. Feel deceived? Join the club! Use your aggravation as motivation for immediately starting your family on a healthy beverage kick.

New hint waters and flavor essences make it easy to switch. You add them to water or seltzer for your own custom “soda” drinks. Try drinkhint.com or sodastreamusa.com for great tasting flavors. Get the kids on board by letting them experiment and make their own custom flavors. You’ll find that they are convenient, special, and an on-the-go beverage that’s light years better than giving in to the big gulp.

Follow the Leader
Start walking! Lead by example, and get the entire family involved in an exercise regimen. Start by getting everyone out for a walk, even if it’s around the block. If there is resistance, insist, and make sure you are only out for 15 minutes. Gradually increase the time out by 5 minutes until you are walking for 45 minutes to an hour at least 3 to 4 times per week. While out, let everyone come up with ways to make the walkabouts more challenging or fun, such as planned nature hikes, beach walks, adding short sprints, or stopping to high five after climbing a steep hill.

You might want to consider getting a digital step counter and keep a family chart of your progress. Create rewards for reaching certain milestones. Geopalz are 3-D pedometers in a variety of shapes, styles and characters—cutesy, edgy, rocker, sporty—designs that will appeal to every child’s taste. These pedometers are a great way for kids to become more in tune with their movement levels, and could very well be the motivating factor you need to get them off the sofa! But more than that, geopalz.com is a free family resource center where you can form and track your family’s progress, and set up incentives for the kids to “walk and win” certificates, cash, and prizes.

Make Over Your Favorite Junk Food
Look for ways to cut the calories, fat and processed sugars and flour from your family’s diet. I make whole wheat pita pizzas using the Middle East Company Carb Watch Pitas. They are challenging to find but worth it! Try Milk Pail in Mountain View, The Real Food Company in San Francisco, and Piazza in Palo Alto. One of my clients makes popsicles using fresh strawberries and 0% Fage Greek yogurt.  Use Mission Carb Balance® tortillas and reduced fat cheese when making quesadillas. Pass on the muffin, and roll a slice of cheese around a slice of deli meat and a thin slice of red pepper and you’ll have a protein-packed, hunger-crunching snack. The point is that with a little thought and experimentation, you can create meal plans that still say there’s “junk food” on the menu!

Plant a Seed
Carve out a space in your backyard, even if it’s a few pots, and plant a family garden. Let your kids discover that the source of great food comes from the ground. When they are involved in the planting, caring, and harvesting…you can bet that they’ll want to taste what they helped to create! According to Eartheasy.com, the best things to grow with children are: lettuces, radishes, snow peas, cherry tomatoes, bush beans, carrots, potatoes and pumpkin. They are easy to grow, have short growing seasons, and are fun to harvest.

Let your kids experience the big picture and participate in or visit a sustainable community garden. Full Circle Farm in Sunnyvale offers a variety of programs and events, including home school programs and an after-school farm club where kids create new gardens, harvest and cook meals, and sell produce at the farm stand. It’s definitely worth a visit.
Smell the Roses, Chase the Butterflies

Slow down and stop moving through the day so fast. We rush around at a frenetic pace and forget to be more “present” and enjoy our amazing kids, where they are right now, at this very moment. When you are out and about, look up from your cell phone and take in the glorious landscape in which we are fortunate to live. Isn’t the Bay Area wonderful?

This quote is a keeper and reminds me (and hopefully you too), that a shift in attitude can make all the difference between having a good or bad day: “Your day will go the way the corners of your mouth turn.” So smile more and observe how transformative it is. And I have experienced it firsthand that a positive attitude adjustment spreads like wildfire throughout the family.

Take Care of YOU
As moms, we feel the stress that comes from having so many responsibilities, juggling so many schedules and having way too many things on our to-do lists. We all let the cacophony of a busy life block out our own internal voices. Take a minute, breathe, and ask yourself, “What do I need?” Spa day? Dance class? Lunch with your girlfriends? Date night? And when the answer comes, act on it! Your family needs you to make yourself a top-priority so you can replenish your verve and renew your energy.

Have a fierce determination to make the changes necessary for the health and well-being of your family. Start slow, remain steadfast, be creative and encouraging, and you’ll soon be a trendsetter…a mom who has led her family to a place where they can…and will soar.

Read Part 1 for the statistics on our nation’s trend towards obesity.

Obesity expert, Dr. Sooji Rugh, is the founder of GreenLite Medicine. Find more healthy ideas and recipes on her blog at greenlitemedicine.com.

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