Healthy eating and exercise basics
Being a parent is much easier and more enjoyable if you’re feeling well. Keeping healthy can help you be the parent you want to be, and an active lifestyle contributes to overall health and wellbeing.
The keys to your good health are healthy eating and exercise – balance what you eat and drink so that you have plenty of energy, and move every day to stay physically healthy.
What you eat, how much you exercise, and how you look after yourself all influence your child’s attitudes to health, fitness and wellbeing too.
Healthy eating for parents
Healthy eating gives you the energy you need during the day and keeps your body nourished so that it runs at its peak.
Preparing balanced meals might sound like a big ask when you’re a busy parent. But once you know which foods give you the nutrients you need, it can be easier to choose good foods and eat well.
For the right balance of carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, your body needs a wide variety of foods from the five food groups:
- vegetables – 6 serves a day for men and 5 serves a day for women
- fruit – 2 serves a day for men and women
- grain foods – 6 serves a day for men and women
- protein – 3 serves a day for men and 2½ serves a day for women
- reduced-fat dairy – 2½ serves a day for men and women.
Plenty of fluids also prevent dehydration, which can make you feel even more tired and lethargic. Water is the purest, simplest and cheapest source of fluid – eight glasses a day is the recommended amount.
Drinks with alcohol and caffeine actually take fluid out of your system. If you have these, try to top up with an extra glass of water.
Faster food tips for quick and healthy eating
Try our tips for saving time and preparing healthy meals quickly. They can help you have a balanced, tasty diet without being a gourmet cook or spending a lot of money.
Quick meal and snack ideas
It doesn’t take long to make healthy meals and snacks with these ideas:
- Cook some pasta with a vegetable sauce and a salad on the side.
- Scramble, hard-boil or fry eggs and serve with baked beans and wholegrain toast.
- Top pita bread with vegetables and low-fat cheese for an easy pizza.
- Grab fruit, vegetable sticks, cheese, dips and yoghurt for healthy, easy snacks when you’re busy.
- Plan meals that you can eat hot or cold, like frittatas. These meals are very versatile, and you can also pack them into containers for outings.
- If you do run out of ingredients and energy, look for takeaway food that’s still healthy, like a stir-fry with rice and vegetables, sushi or fresh soups.
Pantry food ideas for quick meals
If you keep your pantry stocked with healthy foods, it’s much easier to cook healthy meals:
- Keep plenty of long-life vegetables like potatoes, carrots and onions on hand for stir-fries, curries and casseroles.
- Serve grain foods like wholegrain pasta, brown rice, barley, bulgur, quinoa and wholegrain couscous with your stir-fries, curries and casseroles.
- Add dried foods like pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes and shiitake mushrooms to pasta sauces, salads, stir-fries and more.
- Eat almonds, cashews and other nuts (but not salted or fried nuts) as snacks or as part of main meals.
- Use tinned tomatoes, corn and other vegies, as well as tomato paste, for one-pot dishes like pasta sauces, soups and casseroles.
- Eat canned fish like tuna, salmon and sardines for protein. Tinned legumes, lentils and chickpeas are good sources of protein too.
- Add condiments like mustard, soy, chili, pesto or relish to quick snacks for extra flavour.
- Use ready-made stocks to add instant flavour to fast meals.
Healthy frozen food ideas
- Stock your freezer with lots of frozen vegetables – they have a lot of nutritional goodness.
- Freeze meat like skinless chicken and fish.
- Grate and freeze cheese for homemade pizzas, pasta bakes and other dishes.
Food preparation ideas
Here are some food preparation tips to save you time and fuss:
- Prepare and cook meals in bulk and freeze them – for example, casseroles and soups.
- Keep leftovers to use as snacks or in toasted sandwiches.
- Save on washing up by cooking one-pot meals like soups, curries and casseroles.
- Buy vegetables and meat already diced.
Exercise and physical health: tips for parents
As a busy parent, you might find it hard to fit exercise into your day. At the end of the day – sometimes even at the beginning! – you might feel tired and want to rest every chance you get.
But did you know that activity can increase your energy levels and make you feel better?
If you’re short on time, the easiest way is to fit physical activity into everyday activities. This could be going for a walk with your child, splashing about at the local creek, kicking a ball together in the park, or walking to the supermarket for a few items instead of driving.
Movement is what matters – 30 minutes or so a day. Even little amounts of physical activity that add up to 30 minutes will lift your energy. And fitting in some regular vigorous exercise will help boost your health.
There are other good reasons to stay active:
- social enjoyment – activity often gives you the chance to catch up, play sport or go for a walk with others
- personal satisfaction with your own health and wellbeing
- the chance for your child to get involved and be more active too.