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How to Eat Better and Exercise More -- Even as a Busy Parent

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As a busy parent, you may decide to forego the gym or pick convenience over quality when it comes to eating. However, these small decisions add up and turn into bad habits that can cause negative effects on your health and wellness.

Even though it may seem like you don't have the time or energy to eat well or exercise, you need to prioritize your health so that you set a good example for your kids and improve the longevity and quality of your own life.

Eat Better

On-the-go parents typically choose convenience over quality when it comes to food. This often results in unhealthy eating. Eating better and implementing good nutrition will not only improve your physical health and prevent diseases, but it can also help your mental health. Follow the three tips below to practice better-eating habits.

It Won't Happen Overnight

Deciding to start eating better is not easy. Most parents have developed an unhealthy eating habit from many years of poor choices, and as motivated as you are to make that change, it's not going to happen overnight.

Most parents struggle to sustain their new-found nutrition and as a result, backslide to their old eating habits. This “failure” to maintain a healthy routine can be devastating to one's psyche.

Therefore, parents looking to start eating better should start with moderate changes to their diet. Rather than trying something drastic like completely going vegan and failing, try to make small changes like using more fat-free substitutes, eating quinoa instead of white rice, or choosing water instead of soda.

The more small victories you have, the more motivated and encouraged you'll be to continue your new routine.

It Starts at Home

Even though you're on-the-go, good nutrition begins at home. The products you purchase at the grocery store make up the food inventory in your home – so, start making smarter choices with what you choose to keep around you and your family.

Stocking your home with healthy groceries is a great way to kickstart your better eating habits. Forego the processed chips and buy fresh fruit instead. Pick almond milk instead of whole dairy milk. While healthier groceries may be a little more expensive, the benefits to your overall wellness will far outweigh the difference.

Try Meal Prepping

One way to justify the added expense of healthy groceries is to start preparing meals instead of eating out. Try devoting some time on the weekend to cook a large meal that can be divided into multiple, smaller meals.

For instance, cook a large amount of chicken with broccoli and rice. Then, use containers to store individual meals that you can eat throughout the week. Meal prepping is a great way to eat better, while also saving you time and money.

Exercise More

Exercising is an important way for parents to stay healthy. While many parents instill the importance of fitness into their children, they don't always practice what they preach. To set the best example and to live a healthier life, take steps to make exercising a more important part of your day. Below are three tips to help you refocus on fitness.

You Have to Make the Time

As a parent, it can seem like there aren't enough hours in the day. Between school, errands, work, and after-school activities, how does any parent find time to exercise?

Well, it starts with altering how you think of exercise. It's not a matter of finding time throughout the day; it's making time.

I'm a busy parent, but I always make the time to read bedtime stories to my kids. I don't simply find time throughout the day to read a bed-time story; I set aside a specific time and make sure I get it done. This same mentality needs to be applied to exercise and fitness.

Find Activities That Work for You

Along the same lines of finding the time, most on-the-go parents struggle with the mental hurdle of “the gym.”

I can't even count the number of times I‘ve had my work-out motivation stymied by the thought of driving to the gym, dealing with the anxiety of working out in public and waiting in lines for machines or equipment.

Exercising doesn't always need to be a two-hour gym session. In fact, most of my favorite work-outs are activities I enjoy doing, like playing soccer, hiking, or bike-riding. The more you enjoy a physical activity, the more likely you are to continue doing it.

Granted, the fitness activities you choose to do should correlate to your fitness goals. For instance, if you're trying to gain more muscle – you will need to find an activity that leads to increased muscle mass.

Bring the Gym to You

The at-home gym has become a popular alternative to most brick-and-mortar locations. Even if you don't have space for an elliptical, you can typically find room in your house to use a yoga mat or dumbbells. You can also consider purchasing resistance bands which are small and compact enough to fit into a drawer when not being used.

In fact, there are hundreds of home-workout apps and online exercise videos created specifically to help you train while in confined spaces like an apartment or home. From individual video workout sessions with personal trainers to a fully-developed at-home exercise plan and schedule, there is no shortage of options to help you stay motivated and in shape, without ever stepping foot in a gym.

If you're an on-the-go parent looking for ways to improve your health and wellness, eating better and being more active are good places to start. While there are other ways to improve your health and wellness, focusing on those two areas will get you well on your way to a healthier lifestyle.

This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.