As an adult, the connection between food (what and how much) and exercise (how much and how often) and how I feel is something that I can clearly see. The more I eat and the less I move, the worse I feel. Sometimes those feelings are physical like an upset stomach or discomfort in clothing that does not fit as well as it used to. Other times, those feelings come in the form about how I feel about myself. It seems like common sense that by eating the right amounts of good foods and exercising regularly, you are giving yourself the best possible chances for feeling healthy, strong, and comfortable in your own body. And while it is common sense, it doesn’t always come easily and it rarely happens without thought and effort.
As a parent, I struggle with how to talk to my kids about health and nutrition in a way that is both age appropriate and positive. We started last year by using the Lunch Log as a way to help illustrate the different factors that go into a making and eating a healthy meal. In a worksheet format, the Lunch Log can help a kid to make sure they are eating something from each of the major food groups and getting some variety along the way. In our family, tracking meals helped the kids to understand that while they like apples and it is a healthy choice, mixing up the kids of foods and vegetables that you choose helps to give your body different nutrients. Full disclosure: they were more interested in eating something from each of the color groups so that they could use more markers, than they were with the nutrients that those foods provided. And you know what? I’m okay with that. At this age, seeking and consuming variety is a lot more important than understanding the nutritional value that each option provides.
Lately I’ve noticed that we’ve gotten into a bit of a food rut, and this led to some interesting discussion about making healthy choices. The more we talked about health and wellness, the more I realized that two of the hardest parts about living a healthy life are AWARENESS and CONSISTENCY. While it is not that hard to plan out a healthy lunch, it is just one part of a day that is just one part of a week and so on. And of course, when you start to look at the big picture, the focus moves off of just food and onto the other stuff you do for yourself that helps you to feel good.
To help us to take a look at what we’re doing to help ourselves be healthy and feel good, we’re putting into action the:
Healthy Summer Challenge
And because we’re nothing if not competitive, we’re making it into a game with prizes. Here’s how it works:
- Fill out a Healthy Summer Challenge Form (example below, printable page at the bottom).
- Write down the basic information in each category to show what you ate, what you did for exercise, and how much water you consumed.
- Give each category a rating from 1-10 (10 is high) to show how you think you did that day. Making pretty good food choices for a day could give you a 8 or a 9. Eating a bunch of junk would warrant a low number. These ratings are subjective.
- Add any Notes for Tomorrow to help you to identify things you might like to do differently. This gives each person the chance to reflect on the day and determine if there is a positive change to make for the next day.
- Add the date and the person’s name to the bottom, then drop it in a bucket.
- Once a week, draw a slip from the bucket to select a winner.
- The winner gets to select a prize from the Healthy Summer Challenge Prize Pack.
- All remaining slips stay in the bucket, earning more chances to win.
- One entry per person, per day.
For our Prize Pack, I selected a few things that would encourage activities, stuff they’ve been begging for, and items I knew would catch their attention. Also, I made an effort to choose items that did not use food or inactivity as the reward (except for the Mad Libs, they are on the sedentary side).
We’re one week into the Challenge and so far, they’re doing great. I’ve set the Prize Pack up like a display so that they can stare down the options while they decide whether or not it is worth it to fill out the form. And once they have the form in hand, they want to make choices that will give them a higher rating. And although I won’t tell them, my plan to get them to be more aware of their choices is working.
As the summer progresses, I anticipate that their interest in filling out the slips will wane. As that happens, I may throw bonus options into the mix:
- Bonus form for the person who has the most activity in a single week
- Bonus form for the person who plans and makes a healthy meal
- Super prize, like an afternoon at the water park
- Double-prize award
Want to have a Challenge at your house? Download and print the form below. Each sheet includes four slips – print and cut the sheet into quarters.
Print it: healthy summer challenge slips
If you participate, let us know! We’d love to hear your ideas for bonus options, prizes, and how it works at your house.