The Rodriguez family

Getting active and planning healthy meals together

The Rodriguez family walking outside together
The Rodriguez family hugging one another

One of the best ways to build healthy habits is to do it as a team! Try to find foods and activities the whole family enjoys so you can eat healthy and get active together.

Learn how Luis, Camila, and their 3 children (ages 3, 7, and 10 years) are getting creative to get active — and how they’re making healthy meals as a family while staying within their budget.

How we move our way

Some days it’s hard to motivate the kids — and ourselves! — to get moving, especially after a long day at work and school. But we’ve found that there’s lots of ways to fit in activity — even if it’s only a few minutes. Sometimes we just do jumping jacks or push-ups in the living room while we watch TV, or we do a few dance moves while we clean up before bedtime, but it all adds up. 

We also make a point to take a walk around the neighborhood some nights after dinner, and on weekends we ride bikes or throw a ball around at the park. Even when it’s hard to get motivated, it’s worth it. We all have fun, and being active helps the kids sleep better and focus at school. And we know it will help them stay healthier as they grow, too!

The Rodriguez family playing soccer

Kids and teens need a mix of physical activity to stay healthy

5 circles, each containing a stick figure doing an aerobic activity: swimming, playing playground games, walking a dog, biking, and playing running games.

Moderate-intensity aerobic activity

Kids and teens ages 6 to 17 need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day to stay healthy. Most of that can be moderate-intensity aerobic activity — anything that gets the heart beating faster counts. And keep in mind that 60 minutes doesn’t have to happen all at once — every bit of activity adds up!

At least 3 days a week, encourage them to step it up to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, so they’re breathing fast and their heart is pounding.


Muscle- and bone-strengthening activity

To help muscles and bones grow strong, kids and teens also need to do activities like climbing, running, or jumping as part of their 60 minutes. Aim for muscle- and bone-strengthening activities at least 3 days a week.

3 circles, each containing a stick figure doing a muscle-strengthening activity: jumping rope, running an obstacle course, and doing resistance exercises with elastic bands or tubes.

How we make every bite count

Making healthy meals the whole family likes is no easy task! Plus our growing kids have big appetites, and we’re on a budget. 

What works for us is planning meals together and getting the kids involved in the kitchen. Every weekend, the kids help us make a meal plan and write a grocery list with everything we need. It helps us stay within our budget, and the kids are more likely to eat healthy meals that they helped plan. We also work together to prep meals and healthy snack options for the week: The kids help cut veggies and fruits, and we stock the pantry and fridge with easy-to-grab snacks like unsalted nuts and low-fat string cheese.

We’re also working on cutting sugar-sweetened drinks out of our diets — but we’re taking it one step at a time. First we stopped buying soda and chocolate milk, and now we serve plain milk and water as our main beverages. Instead of sugary fruit drinks, we offer 100% juice mixed with water and try to limit it to a glass a day. We check the label to make sure there’s no added sugar. It’s an adjustment for us, but we’re getting there! We also started adding cut-up fruit to water so it’s tastier — and fun for the kids to drink.

To learn what the right amounts are for you, try the personalized MyPlate Plan.

Getting kids involved in meal planning and prep is a great way to help them build healthy eating habits — and it can encourage picky eaters to try new things. Offer kids a variety of choices from all 5 food groups throughout the day:

Vegetables — go for a variety of colors!

Fruits — choose fresh, frozen, or canned in 100% fruit juice

Grains — make half your grains whole grains

Dairy — pick low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, cheese, lactose-free dairy, or fortified soy beverages (soy milk) or soy yogurt

Protein foods — switch it up with seafood, beans, nuts, tofu, and lean meat

Read more stories about eating healthy along with being active

Want to learn more about making healthy changes? Check out these resources:

Move Your Way has everything you need to know about fitting activity into your day, like an interactive graphic that helps you plan your kids’ 60 minutes of daily activity and a video with tips for getting active as a family.

This video shows some solutions for healthy eating from real families.