5 little changes that can have a big impact on your family's health

An active lifestyle leads to better health and better moods. Substituting a few good habits for bad ones can have a big effect on your family.

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  • In sports when a player isn't working, the coach takes him out. We need to do the same thing in our lives.

  • The book "Switch," by Chip and Dan Heath, talks about a nutritional experiment where families where asked to change one thing in their diets. They were asked to buy skim milk instead of whole milk. That one switch made a big difference. Participants lost weight and improved their health.

  • Most often, after we've made one healthy switch in our lives, we'll go on to make others. Making healthy substitutions one at a time makes change seem less formidable.

  • We are creatures of habit. Once we create a healthy habit, doing it requires little effort. It's almost automatic. Here are some healthy habits that can get your family moving.

  • Stay and play

  • Instead of coming straight home from school, stay with your children and let them play for 20 minutes on the playground or stop at the park on the way home. If your kids are bussed, send them straight to the yard after their snack.

  • End errands with fun

  • Your last errand of the day should be a stop at the park or an indoor play area to let your kids get their energy out. Your kids can look forward to this instead of a treat at the end.

  • Take a walk after dinner

  • Instead of turning on the TV, try walking as a family after dinner. Walking after meals has been shown to aid in digestion as well as burn calories. It also is a great time for conversation and togetherness.

  • Drink water

  • Water is one of the major building blocks of your body and a key to good health. You can save yourself and your kids tons of calories and money by drinking the clear stuff. Get in the habit of ordering water when you eat out and give it to your kids with snacks instead of the sugary stuff.

  • Do something active as a family every weekend

  • Take a few hours every weekend for hiking, bike rides, beach combing, picnicking or any other way your family likes to get out and get moving. You'll build memories, get exercise and enjoy the benefits of the great outdoors and fresh air.

  • Sign up for a class

  • You may like yoga, martial arts or gardening. The idea is to pay someone to help you develop a healthy habit. If you have paid and have a set time to participate, you are more likely to follow through.

  • You can make other healthy substitutions in your day as well. Start taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk or ride with your kids to school. Switch to wheat instead of white bread.

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  • Pick one thing today you can substitute with something healthier. Once that's become a habit, move on to something else. You'll be well on your way to a healthier new year.

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Megan Wallgren is a freelance writer and mother of four energetic children.

Website: http://kinetickids.blogspot.com

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