By Eleanor Beeslaar
An essential part of promoting wellness within your family is making healthy food choices! Good nutrition is a critical component of living a healthy lifestyle, as it reduces the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.). Did you know that good nutrition not only increases your physical health, but it is also connected to your brain function and influences your emotional health? According to Harvard Medical School, your brain functions best when it is fueled with high-quality foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, so it is really important to be intentional about what we eat. The foods we put into our body also affect how we feel. In fact, 95% of our serotonin is produced in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract! Serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter, plays an important role in regulating our sleep patterns, appetite, and mood. The production and function of serotonin is greatly influenced by the “good” bacteria, which line our GI tract, so it is important to be mindful about choosing foods that keep your gut healthy! For more information about the connection between nutrition and psychological health, check out the following article: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626
Families can encourage healthy eating habits while spending quality time together! A great way to get the whole family involved in mealtime is to have family meals. By working together to prepare meals, parents can be healthy eating role models and teach their kids about nutrition. Through this process, kids can learn how to cook, be introduced to new and healthy foods, and learn how to make healthy food choices! Family meals also create an opportunity for families to develop traditions, connect, and talk about what is going on in one another’s lives.
Here are some important tips and ideas to keep in mind when thinking about promoting healthy food choices in your family:
- Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.
- Turn fruit into an option for desert.
- Choose whole grains.
- Choose foods that are low in saturated-fats.
- Vary your proteins and include beans, nuts, and seeds.
- Have treats every once in a while!
For more ideas and resources about fun ways to promote healthy eating habits in your family, visit https://www.choosemyplate.gov/families#mealtimes.
Selhub, E. (2018, April 5). Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626
U.S. Department of Agriculture (2018, July 18). Start with Small Changes. Retrieved from https://www.choosemyplate.gov/start-small-changes
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (n.d.). Importance of Good Nutrition. Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/eat-healthy/importance-of-good-nutrition/index.html