Life changes when you have young kids. But even when you don’t have much time to focus on yourself, you can take small steps to make healthy eating and physical activity part of your routine. They’ll go a long way to help protect your health — and will keep you at your best for those you love.
Learn how Joni makes time to move her way and finds creative ways to eat healthy with a baby and a young child.
How I move my way
Before I had kids, I was pretty active. I spent lots of weekends hiking or going on bike rides with friends. But 2 pregnancies in just over 4 years changed all that!
After my second child was born, I was constantly tired and just didn’t have any energy. I knew it was partly because I wasn’t getting enough sleep at night — but I also realized that I missed getting active. I found that getting outside even for just 15 minutes and taking a quick walk gave me an energy boost, and it helped me feel more like my old self. I take the kids along in the stroller — sometimes we stop by the park, and my older child and I play ball while the baby naps.
That’s not to say getting active is easy with a young child and a baby in the house! Taking them with me on walks is a challenge sometimes — and when I finally get some time to myself after the kids are in bed, physical activity usually isn’t the first thing on my list. But I try my best to get active a few times a week, whether it’s outside or with an online exercise video. I don’t always get to do as much as I’d like, but that’s okay! I like knowing that even a little bit of activity relieves some stress and helps me stay healthy — and it’s setting a good example for my kids.
Adults need a mix of physical activity to stay healthy
Moderate-intensity aerobic activity
Adults need at least 150 minutes each week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Anything that gets the heart beating faster counts! Brisk walking is a great option if you’re recovering from childbirth or if you’re just starting to get active — and you can do it almost anywhere. Invite a friend along for some social time while you get moving!
It’s also important to do muscle-strengthening activities 2 days a week — that’s anything that makes your muscles work harder than usual.
How I make every bite count
I grew up eating home-cooked meals, and I always thought I’d give my kids the same experience. But taking care of young children doesn’t leave much time for cooking — I’m not interested in anything that takes more than 30 minutes to make. The faster I can put together a meal, the better.
It’s also a challenge to find healthy foods that work for all of us — a young kid who’s still figuring out what they like, a baby who’s just starting to eat solid foods, and myself. I want to make sure we all get the nutrients we need, but at first I had no idea how to do that with so many different preferences to take into account.
I talked to our family doctor about my concerns, and she shared some good advice: It’s absolutely okay not to cook a whole meal. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated! She said I should just try to include something from each food group in our meals throughout the day — fruits and vegetables, protein foods, grains, and dairy.
So sometimes I serve something as simple as peanut butter on whole-grain bread, cut-up grapes or bananas, and low-fat yogurt. I also try to make it fun and add variety — I let the kids pick out new, different fruits and vegetables when we’re at the store, and we taste them together to find new favorites.
Adding variety to your — and your family’s! — plate doesn’t have to be complicated. Try to choose something from each of the 5 food groups throughout the day.