Some New Year’s resolutions take a while to achieve—hello, learning a new language!—but others can be accomplished in a surprisingly short amount of time. Case in point: helping your family be healthier and more fit in just 30 days. Our Healthy Family Challenge offers 30 ways to help you create smart but totally doable habits throughout the month. Take part on social media with the hashtag #HealthyFamilyChallenge and show us what ya got!
Ready to take the challenge? Follow the tips below, and be sure to share your success stories and photos along the way using the hashtag #HealthyFamilyChallenge!
Go for a walk after dinner. Give Netflix the night off and take a post-meal stroll around the neighborhood. (Bring flashlights to light your way if it’s dark outside.) Besides squeezing in some cardio, this outdoor adventure is also a great chance to wind down together.
Have a gadget-free day. Tired of fighting with a tablet or phone for their attention? Try unplugging as a family and using the screen-free time to reconnect IRL. Hint: Store powered-down gadgets in an out-of-the-way spot so no one is tempted to sneak in a game of Candy Crush.
Focus on your breath. No, we’re not talking about morning breath. A handful of times throughout the day, make a point to take a full, deep, cleansing breath. Inhale slowly through your nose so your belly rises, and exhale slowly out of your mouth. This simple exercise can help you feel calmer almost instantly.
Drink more water. Water helps with bodily functions like digestion and transporting waste; prevent muscle fatigue; and can even make your skin look better. And since water is the original zero-calorie drink, you can drink your suggested 64 ounces a day without worrying about derailing any resolutions. Perk up your glass with fresh fruit slices or a sprig of mint.
Plan an adventure vacation. Make the most of precious time away by planning a trip that’s anything but routine. “Adventure” can mean anything from hitting the slopes together to kayaking down a river to stargazing in a state park.
Try a new healthy food. Like the looks of Romanesco? Always wondered what a ramp tastes like? Explore the produce section or farmer’s market and find a new fruit or veggie to try at dinner tonight. Check out our family-friendly recipes for inspiration.
Skip sugar. Go for easy wins, like drinking unsweetened coffee or bypassing dessert, but also be sure to read nutrition labels. Sugar is added to all sorts of foods (not just the sweet ones). Can’t go cold turkey for a day? Try slashing your sugar intake in half.
Make a baking swap. Spare yourself unnecessary calories by replacing high-sugar or high-fat ingredients with healthier alternatives. Unsweetened applesauce, for example, can often be swapped in for oil, butter, or sugar. Just cut down on the amount of liquid in the recipe.
Practice random acts of kindness. Surprise the driver behind you by paying their toll. Treat an unsuspecting co-worker to lunch. Hold the door open for a stranger. Small acts of charity don’t just help others—they make you feel pretty good, too.
Take a family fitness class. The family that jumps around together…has a lot of fun together! Sign up for a group class that can accommodate everyone’s skill level. Zumba, yoga, and water aerobics are all good choices.
Practice gratitude. You have a lot to be thankful for, and chances are you’re overlooking some of it. Today, try acknowledging all the good around you, whether by writing it down in a gratitude journal, reflecting on it during meditation, or saying it out loud.
Color together. It doesn’t matter if your dog looks like a buffalo or if your child insists on making every bed of grass pitch black. Coloring side by side is a wonderful way to relax together. Fill up a mason jar with your favorite shades, and let your creative juices flow. (Need a coloring book? Download and print this adorable DIY version.)
Commercial break jumping jacks! Sneak in quick bursts of jumping jacks while you’re waiting for This Is Us to come back from commercial break. (Try these fun variations on the traditional jumping jack.) Because let’s face it, those two minutes aren’t just for bathroom visits.
Charity fun run. Have a cause near and dear to your family’s heart? Find out if your favorite charity or nonprofit is hosting an upcoming fun run near you, and train for it as a family. Not only will you be raising money and awareness for a good cause, you’ll also be boosting your physical and mental health.
Try a healthy new restaurant. Can’t stomach the idea of ordering pizza again? Check out a new (or new to you) restaurant that offers healthier fare. Some cuisines, such as Greek, Japanese, and Indian, are famous for flavorful but good-for-you dishes.
Hit the nearest trail. Even if you love your gym, nothing can replace the experience of exercising in the great outdoors. Besides helping you de-stress, taking a long nature walk also doubles as a serious cardio session. Win/win.
- RELATED: Take a Hike! 8 Family-Friendly Tips
Research your family’s medical history. A few calls into a parent or relative is often all it takes to compile a fairly thorough record of your family’s medical history. And the benefits are far-reaching. Knowing what health issues your immediate and extended family members experienced helps give you an idea of what you and your children may be at risk for. Think common conditions like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, high or low blood pressure, and stroke.
Try a new activity. Shake up your routine by trying something new, like a cooking class or sport. Yes, getting out of your comfort zone can be a little scary, but a new adventure can also leave you and your family feeling more inspired and motivated.
Start the day with yoga. There are plenty of good reasons to reserve some time in the morning to downward dog. Yoga has been credited with everything from helping to boost brain function to increasing flexibility to lowering stress. It’s good for kids, too: Pediatricians say it may also be a helpful treatment for asthma, autism, and more.
Eat more fruit. The secret is to make the good stuff accessible so you and your family can grab and go. Cut up fresh fruit into bite-sized chunks, and store in the refrigerator to snack on later. Or fill up a big bowl with fresh fruit and leave it on the counter or table for a quick nosh.
Make a “happy” list. Love burying your face in a pile of freshly laundered towels? Get a thrill when you make every single green light on a busy road? Feel triumphant when you remember your password? Write it—and every other little thing that fills you with glee—down on a piece of paper, and review whenever you need a pick-me-up.
Meditate for 10 minutes. In the time it takes you to put on make up, you can meditate your way to a more relaxed, centered state. All you need is a quiet place and 10 minutes to quiet your mind. Apps like Headspace can help guide you, or try these five easy ways to meditate.
Make a craft for charity. Teaching children to be more charitable isn’t just for the holidays. Devote some time today to making a craft that can benefit others, like homemade cards for children in the hospital, superhero capes for children living in a shelter, or no-sew fleece blankets for animals in a shelter.
Cook a meal together. The benefits of inviting the kids to help with meal prep are many. Picky eaters may be more open to eating a dish they helped to create. Younger kids have a chance to practice measuring and stirring, and older kids can enjoy the satisfaction of mastering a recipe. Bonus: You can joke and chat as you help each other chop, blend, and sauté.
Go to bed early. Turn off the screens and hit the hay an hour or two before you normally do. Getting a full seven or eight hours of sleep can provide such benefits as an improved mood and a stronger immune system.
Dance! We can’t think of a better way to banish a bad mood or liven up a tedious task than to shake it off. Literally. Dancing releases feel-good endorphins and is an effective calorie burner to boot. But more importantly, it’s fun! Next time you all hit a mid-afternoon slump, crank up a peppy song and let loose together.
Toss your toothbrush. If you haven’t replaced your toothbrush since last summer, it’s time for an upgrade. The American Dental Association recommends changing out your toothbrush every three or four months—even sooner if the bristles are frayed.
Eat the rainbow. A plate full of colorful fruits and veggies doesn’t just look nice on your Instagram—it’s also good for your body. These so-called “power foods” offer a slew of important nutrients, such as beta-carotene and lycopene, that can help ward off health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. Challenge your family to eat a rainbow every day.
Schedule annual exams. We know you know it’s important to keep up with your annual check-ups. We also know it can be tough to carve out the time to actually go to them. Today, before your calendar fills up, schedule those visits to your general physician, gynecologist, dentist, and any other health care provider who helps keep you in tip-top shape. Your body will thank you.
Snuggle! Cuddling may lower blood pressure, promote bonding, help with baby’s development, and release oxytocin, but it’s also a pretty great way to spend a few minutes together. This evening, stream your family’s favorite movie, pop some popcorn, and curl up on the sofa together.