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The Four Pillars of Healthy Eating for Families

Healthy living was the topic of the day on podcast episode 16 of “One Day You’ll Thank Me”, with our special Guest Expert, Dr. Orlena Kerek. Dr. Orlena is a pediatric doctor and the host of the Fit & Fabulous podcast. She spoke with us about what she calls, The four pillars of healthy living in families.

Dr. Orlena is a proponent of creating systems and habits in order to foster a healthy lifestyle for families. What we want to do by implementing them, is create a healthy way of living and eating that is easy, fun, and sustainable. The idea is to do it without thinking, forever. Once those systems and habits are in place, it just becomes natural and you don’t have to worry about it, and your kids don’t have to “think” about living a healthy life and being healthy eaters, they just eat in a particular way and it is the life that you all naturally live.

What are these systems and how can we implement within our own families?

The FOUR PILLARS of healthy living for families:

1) Nutrition is about what we eat - vegetables and fruits are the key to a healthy diet. Parents set the example, by making healthy choices and offering their kids healthy choices to choose from. It’s ok to eat ice cream once in a while and have special treats, but when it is given freely and regularly, kids will not be able to regulate themselves and then will not choose to eat healthier options that are crucial for their development.

Dr. Orlena notes that younger kids are naturally picky eaters, but oftentimes the mother has the role of setting the tone for healthy habits in the home. She advises against pressuring their kids to eat, but instead focus on having a healthy repertoire of food at all times. She notes that refined carbs should be limited, whereas vegetables (and sometimes fruits) should be given unlimited access. She feels that kids aren't actually able to regulate their own intake, especially if presented with foods high in salt and sugar.

When looking at cultural differences, we recognize that the United States doesn't regulate the type of foods kids consume, whereas Spain (where Dr. Orlena resides) limits kids' access to unhealthy food during snack and mealtimes at school. Also, portion sizes are smaller outside of developed countries, unlike here in the states where we supersize food items and offer bigger, jumbo sizes. There are certainly at least two ways to look at it, with both feeling very strongly about the what is right. Definitely "food for thought"! LOL

Should parents plan out a week of meals in advance?

While it is the best way to set your family up for success, it isn’t always an option. Dr. Orlena advises parents to do their best to plan out a menu for the week and have the ingredients, because if there is not a plan in place, people tend to make bad choices and go to fast food, or take out, or frozen pizza. Not to say that any of that is wrong on occasion, but if you are not planning the meals ahead of time and waiting until mealtime to decide, you tend to eat unhealthier.

2) Exercise - is the key to feeling fit and fabulous. When it comes to exercise for the family, try to focus on activities that are fun for the entire family (swimming, walking to a picnic, roller skating), and push past your kid's cries of "No, I don't want to!" Putting habits in place and setting aside the time, will set all of you up for success. Technology such as social media and video games can distract families from getting enough exercise, we need to keep those types of activities to a limit and help to engage everyone in physical activities.

3) Sleep - is extremely important and often overlooked. So much research has been done about how important it is for our bodies and healthy living, especially for children. Many parents do not understand how important sleep is to brain development, focus, mood, food intake and kids willingness to partake in exercise. It is really one of the first things that needs to be addressed. That means setting appropriate bedtimes, no technology late into the night or getting up early to get back on it.

4) Emotional wellness and mindset starts with us - how we think about things, our self awareness. Dr. Orlena describes the mindset that goes into making healthier decisions, consisting of developing positive thinking and being aware of the relationship between

thoughts --> feelings --> action (behavior). Life is full of ups and downs, but it is important to focus more on the positives than the negatives.

What can be most helpful is teaching our kids how to deal with their “big emotions” and how to deal with disappointment (instead of trying to make it better or avoiding it), this is crucial to emotional wellness for all of us.

As Dr. Orlena sees it, there are three things you can do with emotions. Two of the three are not so helpful (throwing things, emotional eating), but what we can do for ourselves and teach our kids, is to be present with their emotions, allow them to come up and move out.

We can change the way we think about things. As we make changes in our life, things don’t always go as planned, that is why it is important to have tools in place. So if things don’t go as we planned, or we make a bad choice, we don’t just give up and go back to square one. This is why mindset is so important and having tools to course correct.

She states that making changes is like a spiral...start with little changes, and they spiral into bigger and more significant changes. I agree and feel that the initial steps of developing a new routine are the most stressful aspect of making healthy changes, but it improves with practice. Dr. Orlena urges us to listen to both parts of our brains; the planning part of our brain, and the part that defaults to old habits and temptations. We need to take care of both of those parts.

One part of the brain says, “ok, I am going to give up chocolate for a week” and then the other part of the brain says, “it’s 3:00 and that is when I normally have a piece of chocolate”. This is where the battle occurs. A better way to go about it is to try giving it up for a week, but give yourself one day of that week where you can have a piece of chocolate. Again you want to set yourself up for success.

Chocolate isn't bad all the time, she says. So, phew!

The strategies that Dr. Orlena sets are mainly for women, a lot of it is about self care with mother herself, and the foods that she presents to her children. The best way to teach healthy eating is to demonstrate healthy eating and be an example. The reason is, it is very difficult to teach your children healthy eating if you are not eating healthy yourself. Start making small changes for your family and have fun with it. Get the kids involved and if you need extra support, reach out for help.

Listen to this podcast and gather more information RIGHT HERE.

Learn more about Dr. Orlena by visiting her website RIGHT HERE.

Learn more about Dr. Orlena's "Super Simple System for Health Living for Families" RIGHT HERE.

Learn more about Dr. Tara Egan's therapy services RIGHT HERE.

Learn more about Dr. Tara Egan's books, webinars, public speaking opportunities, and coaching/consultation services RIGHT HERE.

Register for our FREE weekly parenting webinar series RIGHT HERE. We discuss a myriad of parenting topics each week, and registrants can watch LIVE or get the recording emailed to watch at a more convenient time.

Finally, join our private FB group for parents of high school students RIGHT HERE.

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