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According to a 2017 Public Health Agency of Canada report, 30 percent of children aged 5-17 are overweight or obese.

As we stretch our legs into this second decade of the 21st century it’s hard to believe that childhood obesity is still an issue in Canada. 

There’s more knowledge at our fingertips than ever before, yet for every health expert, there is also a fast-food restaurant or grocery store that sells chips, cookies, candy, etc. 

Registered Psychologist, Dr. Theresa Nicassio, author of YUM: Plant-Based Recipes for a Gluten-Free Diet, has much to offer families wanting a healthy lifestyle. 

She shares here in a Q&A her family fitness tips and healthy eating suggestions.

Q: How should people include their children in family activities?

TN: When (kids) see us doing something, often they become curious about where we’re going and what we’re doing.

Those are precious opportunities to invite them to come along.

By tagging on an incidental comment like, “I think you’re ready for this” or “Gosh, since you’re getting so grown up now, would you like to join me?” can double as an entry into the activities, but also a boost for their self-esteem and confidence.

Q: What are some family fitness activities that are easy for the whole family?

TN: In terms of the activities that we more often associate with family fitness as a whole family, we are huge fans of tubing, sledding, dancing, gardening, swimming, and walking in nature. 

My husband is also a runner and has created countless fun moments with our girls running with them, both training for and also running in 5km and 10km races with them. 

Even when they were too young for the Vancouver Sun Run 10km, they would do the Sun Run Mini so that they could be part of the exciting community event.

Q: What are some healthy food choices while exercising?

TN: When we exercise, we not only expend a lot of energy but also use up a lot of the water stores in our bodies. 

For optimal functioning and performance, staying hydrated is extremely important. 

With this in mind, most of us know that drinking water is very important, but what most people don’t realize is the value of water-dense foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables. 

Because of the other vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are present in produce and are utilized during exercise, they are a fabulous go-to for outings. 

Dried and dehydrated healthy snacks can also be good options, but only when your water-consumption through liquids and water-dense foods is also incorporated.

Q: With ever-changing technology affecting our phones and games, what are some tips to spend more quality meal time together?

TN: First of all the norm that devices are put aside during eating is crucial. 

There’s nothing more troubling than a shared family meal while not everyone is present. 

Presence is not just about having your body in the room sitting in a chair at the dining table; it’s also about being emotionally present for the others you are at the table with, including yourself.

Technology has become like a drug that facilitates a new form of dissociation that has strangely become socially acceptable in our world. 

But from a mental and physical health perspective, there are many concerns that are important for us to be aware of.

I remember hearing about a functional MRI study looking at brain activity while individuals watched TV. 

They found that the brain is more “asleep” while watching TV than while actually sleeping. 

I’m not sure if any similar studies have been done recently looking at the impact of the modern-day phone and other screen time, but I have a feeling the results might be similar.

With that in mind, my best tip for parents is for them to be aware of the addictive aspects of screens and to create family norms around their usage, optimally minimizing usage and folding into their lives and routines more active and engaged real-life experiences as the core of daily living.

All Fitness Friday Features are submitted by Christine Blanchette and you can follow her on Twitter or Youtube.

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