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Kick Off A Healthy New Year With A Nutrition Makeover And Smart Strategies For Getting The Kids On Board.

Life is hectic. Most families are juggling work and after-school activities, so grab-and-go foods and takeout become daily routine. You’re pressed for time, and grocery shopping becomes a last-resort stop at the convenience store, or a mad dash with a cart down to the prepared foods department and frozen dinner case. You can’t count how many dinners were consumed in the car between kids’ athletics and meetings.


Sound familiar?


Trust us, we get it. But there is a better way, and it doesn’t require slaving away in the kitchen, giving up every “junk food” you love—you’re allowed to treat yourself—or bribing your kids to eat veggies with promises of extra electronics time.


You can perform a successful mealtime makeover and jumpstart some basic, healthy habits without the stress. (That’s just as important to cut out as refined sugar!) You got this. Here are some smart strategies to start your New Year off on a more balanced, fit, and nutritious path.


But before we dig in, keep this in mind: Give yourself permission to start small. Take it one step at a time. Even a little change like buying whole grain bread instead of a bakery loaf of white is a big move toward reaching your goal and will give you the confidence to continue.


Clean Out. Give your refrigerator and pantry a thorough cleanse. Scan the shelves for sugary drinks, processed foods, chips packed with saturated fat, sticky sweets, and anything that you’d like to eliminate from your everyday diet. Remove the temptation and make more room for stocking healthy choices.


If an all-out purge seems too drastic and will throw the household into a revolt, involve the family. Ask everyone to think about which foods should be treats and not everyday eats—and ask everyone to choose one item to “clean out.” Now, there’s more room for stocking healthy choices.


Meal Plan. Choose one day a week to sit down and plan meals to avoid last-minute drive-through trips. You don’t have to prepare extravagant meals. Simple-to-cook dishes that include lean protein, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains can be easily prepared on the fly with leftovers for the next day. Ask yourself, “How can one meal do more?” Consider ways to repurpose leftovers, such as folding leftover chicken into healthy tacos or cooking salmon in advance to refrigerate and toss onto a bed of leafy greens.


Take advantage of conveniences like Instacart and curbside pickup that allow you to order online. Not only will you save time, you can carefully select ingredients and foods, only buying what you need and avoiding impulse purchases—like that box of cookies.


Leverage the crockpot as your “chef,” and try some easy sheet-pan dinners. Air fryers speed up cooking time, remove grease and fat, and are a great way to prepare juicy pork tenderloin, healthy whole chicken, and omega-3 rich salmon.


Ask the kids choose one dish they’d like to eat per week and involve them in preparing packed lunches and dinners. They’ll be more likely to try new foods if they are involved in the process. Plus, they’ll take pride in plating a homemade meal and learn kitchen skills so they can pitch in more often, especially on busy nights.


When you take a little bit of time to prepare meals, you’ll head into the week with a nutritious plan and avoid last-minute food fixes that are often not the healthiest choices.


Eat Together. Turn off the T.V. and devices that distract everyone from mealtime and enjoying each other’s company. According to The Family Dinner Project, only about 30% of families manage to eat meals together regularly. Take your time and savor each bite. Research shows that people who take time to chew slowly have better digestion and feel fuller faster. Slower eaters also have a smaller waist circumference and lower body mass index.


Not only is mealtime important for connecting and growing positive relationships, eating together promotes better nutrition—and improved literacy. Based on studies including one by the Home-School Study of Language and Literacy Development show dinner conversation is a great vocabulary booster for children, even better than reading aloud.


Build a Better Plate. The USDA recommends including a variety of foods: fruits, veggies, grains, protein and dairy. Focus on red, orange and dark green vegetables. Choose whole fruits. Go for 100% whole-grain cereals, bread, crackers, rice and pasta. Move to low-fat or fat-free dairy. Vary your protein routine to incorporate fish, beans, poultry and lean meat. MyPlate by USDA suggests filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, leaving the rest for lean protein and whole grains.


Speaking of plates, the average plate size today is 12 inches in diameter—a few inches larger than decades ago, and our population is growing more obese. Select a smaller plate such as 9 inches to limit portions.


As for helpings, here are some portion guidelines.


Get Moving. Regular activity helps sustain your metabolism. Work in daily movement, and make it fun for the family. Bundle up and go on a winter walk. Explore a variety of YouTube exercise videos such as this Fitbit 10-minute Family Fun Cardio Exercise Workout or YogaToday for Kids. There are many ways to fit in short bursts of activity throughout the day to keep you energized, burn calories, build endurance and strength, and reduce the risk of disease. After all, exercise builds immunity—and we can all use more of that during flu season.


Ask Your DPC. Your direct primary care practitioner at Maple Health is invested in your whole health and your family’s wellbeing. How can we help you achieve nutrition and exercise goals? What resolutions do you have to take better care of your mind, body, and spirit in the New Year. We’re your champion! Let’s put a plan in place.


Start the New Year off with a commitment to better health. Courtney Kozek PA-C can help. She is accepting new patients at Maple Health DPC, a full-service, membership-based primary care practice that offers flexible access, longer appointment times, less waiting and a relationship with a practitioner you know and trust. Access affordable, quality healthcare 24/7. Learn more at or call (440) 655-8017.

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