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10 habits of healthy families

By Health Magazine
updated 8:43 AM EDT, Wed August 21, 2013
Don't go hungry: To stay at a healthy weight, families like the Carrolls, pictured, have to eat, not starve. Don't go hungry: To stay at a healthy weight, families like the Carrolls, pictured, have to eat, not starve.
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The habits of healthy families
The habits of healthy families
The habits of healthy families
The habits of healthy families
The habits of healthy families
The habits of healthy families
The habits of healthy families
The habits of healthy families
The habits of healthy families
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A family's healthy choices regarding food aren't only up to the parents
  • Exercise at home and play with the whole family every day
  • Sexual intimacy is important for parents -- it actually adds years to their lives

(CNN) -- Every wonder how families stay healthy, fit and thin? We asked Dr. Oz for his tips on how to build a healthy family strategy. Dr. Oz says families (like the Carrolls, pictured) that make healthy lifestyle choices together, stay healthy together. Here's his game plan for your family.

Don't go hungry

To stay at a healthy weight, you have to eat, not starve yourself. "If you don't fuel up regularly, you'll become insatiably hungry, causing the 'hunger' hormone, ghrelin, to spike," Dr. Oz says. "The problem is, it takes a half-hour for that hormone to return to normal once you start to eat, but in that 30 minutes you'll likely chow through many more calories than if you hadn't eaten on an empty stomach."

Dr. Oz keeps filling almonds on hand—don't be surprised if you see him nibbling a few on his show.

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Health.com: Dr. Oz's Favorite Healthy Foods

Automate breakfast and lunch

Without a healthy go-to option for each, you're far more likely to make bad spur-of-the-moment grabs. Plus, having a staple of one or two healthy usuals makes grocery shopping easier. "You don't want to reinvent the wheel every day," says Dr. Oz, who starts his day with a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal with flaxseed oil, a few walnuts, and some raisins or agave for sweetness—a morning meal that Randy and Kathleen have adopted and now love.

For lunch, Dr. Oz recommends a vegetable-based soup (like this tomato fennel soup recipe) or a turkey or tuna sandwich on whole-grain bread. For the kids, you can improve upon the PBJ sandwich (it's not horrible, but the jelly is all sugar) by using less jelly or turning it into a PB sandwich with a piece of fruit.

Exercise 20 minutes a day—at home

Why stay at your place? "If you have to go somewhere to exercise, you're automatically going to need more than 20 minutes, and it violates the flow of your day," Dr. Oz says. "An hour is a long time; 20 minutes is nothing." Keeping your daily workout goal short and convenient works, he explains, because none of us want to admit that our lives are so disorganized that we can't carve out 20 quick minutes.

"What we find is that if we tell people to do 20 minutes, they enjoy it and end up doing more than 20 minutes," which is even better for your heart, Dr. Oz stresses. Simple ideas that work: Skip rope in your driveway, and alternate with crunches and push-ups; do 20 minutes of a workout video; walk in your neighborhood.

Health.com: Family-Friendly Meals

Be the food decider in your house

"I know this can be tough for parents, but the big decisions about what to eat must be made by you at the supermarket," Dr. Oz says. Here's why: If you bring chips and cookies home, your kids (and you) will naturally want to eat them.

And if you try to restrict them, you'll actually cause your child to crave them more. But if you don't buy the sweets to begin with, kids won't even miss them, Dr. Oz promises. Keep good-news snacks on hand (like nuts and pretzels) and fruit and veggies washed and chopped in your fridge. "Kids will eat healthy snacks when they get hungry enough," Dr. Oz says.

Eat dinner together every night

"I can talk about the importance of nutrients for good health all day. But studies show that if you want your kids to have an appreciation of how precious their bodies are, you can't beat just sitting down together," Dr. Oz says. This simple ritual improves not just kids' eating habits but their grades and willingness to open up to you, too.

"When families come together to eat, they create an emotional harmony that I think is pretty sacred for long-term health." If evenings don't work, turn breakfast into your family sit-down instead.

Health.com: Family Dinner Secrets from Star Chefs

Play together every day

"In our house, we put on 50 Cent and the kids bop around," Dr. Oz says. "It's our very own dance party."

Just like with exercising at home for 20 minutes, the key is to carve out a reliable pocket of time when you can actually get active as a family. Working up a sweat together is an anti-aging move, too: Using your mind to activate your muscles, either to dance or catch a ball, is one of the best ways to keep yourself young," Dr. Oz says. Play a pick-up game of soccer, have a dance party, or shoot hoops after dinner.

Let your children police you

Talk to your kids about smart-eating goals, and encourage them to call you out if you grab junk food. "Kids love feeling empowered," Dr. Oz says. It makes them feel like part of the solution, instead of feeling singled out as the only ones who have to follow healthy-eating rules.

Health.com: 5 Tips for Staying Active with Kids and Family

Tell little ones a bedtime story

Or talk to older kids about their day. "That's the one time that kids let their guard down—when they're tired and about to go under," Dr. Oz says. "It's when you hear what's really on their minds and you can try and impart some knowledge."

Make sure you have a bedtime routine

A good night's sleep keeps you young. "Half of American adults have lost the ability to sleep, and not getting about seven hours a night can be a contributing factor to heart attacks and strokes," Dr. Oz says. Keep your bedroom cool and dark, and nix the technology. If you can't fall asleep after 15 minutes, don't beat yourself up; get out of bed and meditate or read to help you relax.

Health.com: Host a Family Pizza Party

Bond in bed

Having regular sex can add an extra three years to your life expectancy, Dr. Oz reports. His suggestion? Aim for twice a week. "The love that stems from that blissful moment of being in each other's arms," he says, "is crucial for strengthening your relationship—and your health."

Copyright Health Magazine 2011

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