11 Exciting Ways to Engage Your Family in a Heart Healthy Lifestyle
Loved ones that participate in healthful activities can make your new healthy lifestyle more sustainable.
There is nothing more difficult than trying to make changes to improve your heart health when your loved ones are not ready for any sort of change.
In my experience, trying to persuade loved ones to eat healthy food or exercise more, whether for your own benefit or theirs, rarely ends well.
However, when you take time to design meals you truly love and explore exciting ways to be more active, they notice. When you lose weight, stop taking blood pressure medication, and experience an incredible boost in energy - it speaks for itself. Trust me, I've seen it.
Being a living example of how incredible an active, plant-based lifestyle can feel is more powerful than words. In fact, it can be infectious.
Once other people start to notice, you can invite them to join you (in a non-pushy kind of way, of course). Don’t encourage them to buy an elliptical or abstain from meat; instead, invite them to go for a walk, cook a meal, or share the bean and veggie burrito at your local Mexican restaurant.
Inviting them to partake in the less "committal" healthy activities can nudge them toward being a "believer" in a healthy lifestyle. This will make it easier for you to stick to your new habits to support weight loss, a lower blood pressure, and good cholesterol or blood sugar levels.
Check out these simple ways to get your family involved without them even noticing.
1. Make Some “Nice” Cream Together
Nice cream is a surprisingly delicious non-dairy, plant-based ice cream that you can make in minutes. Start simple with this Banana Nice Cream or get more adventurous with this Cherry Chocolate Nice Cream.
3 frozen bananas (very ripe, peeled, cut into chunks)
2-4 tbsp. non-dairy milk of your choice
* Add bananas to a high speed blender and blend, adding a tablespoon of non-dairy milk at a time until a soft serve consistency is achieved. Yum!
2 cups pitted frozen cherries
4 medjool dates, pitted
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
3/4 to 1 cup non-dairy milk
* Blend all ingredients on high for a few minutes until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Start with 3/4 cup milk and carefully add more if needed.
2. Do a Dance Class (or Better Yet, Have a Dance Party) Together
Sign up together for an in-person or virtual dance class like Zumba, a YouTube hip-hop dance workout, or a local “dance fitness” offering at your local gym or community center.
On the fence? Just 30 minutes of dancing can burn between about 130 to 250 calories. That’s comparable to 30 minutes of jogging!
3. Explore Unfamiliar Ethnic Cuisine and Cook a New Meal Together
Certain ethnic cuisines put more emphasis on meals not centered on animal foods. Many of these meals omit meat and dairy completely, or use chopped meat as more of a “condiment.” When used this way the meat is sprinkled on top and uses a significantly smaller serving of meat.
Such cuisines include Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Indonesian, Ethiopian, and Vietnamese.
Another option is learn to make a meal together that can be modified to please both the plant-based eaters and the meat eaters. For example, bean burritos or a 3 bean chili can be made for the whole family with the addition of ground meat in a separate pot for the meat-eaters.
4. Play an Active Game Together
This could include kickball, horseshoes, ladder toss, bocce ball, or table tennis.
If you invite your young kids or grandkids to play, they’ll be hard-pressed to say no to a game of tag, hot lava, hopscotch, jump rope, Twister, or Simon Says.
Finding outdoor activities is a win-win. Often, we don’t spend enough time outside and miss out on the benefits of vitamin D, the “sunshine” vitamin, which promotes healthy bones, and may possibly help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of developing diabetes or heart problems.
5. Start a Friendly “Steps Per Day” Challenge
Start by tracking how many steps you and your loved ones take every day. Instead of comparing who took the most steps, determine who increased the most from week to week. Simply add up how many steps you took over the course of the first week of the challenge. Then add up how many steps you took over the course of the second week. Then, subtract your week 1 total from your week 2 total.
Tip: Some helpful apps to keep track of your step count include Leap Fitness Step Counter, Google Fit, Apple Health, or you can opt for a fitness tracker such as a Fitbit.
6. Explore a Local Park
Spending time outside also elicits psychological benefits, such as increased attention and decreased sadness and depression.
Being physically active in a green space can exhibit even more benefits, including improvements in self-esteem and mood.
Research parks nearby, especially ones with walking trails or nature preserves. Make a list of ones you haven’t been to and explore them one by one.
Studies show that the greatest change in mood comes from the first 5 minutes of outdoor activity.
7. Watch a Plant-Based Documentary Together
Plant-based documentaries share inspiring stories of people that experienced remarkable health improvements with food.
From my experience, there is no need to convince loved ones to eat a certain way. These documentaries take care of that for you.
8. Grow a Garden (In the Yard or Try a Hanging Garden)
Studies have shown that children eat more vegetables when they grow them at home. What mom/grandmother/aunt doesn’t love that?
Plus, spending time in the presence of greenery has been shown to reduce stress (see number 6).
Lack outdoor space?
Grow some plants in containers, hanging baskets, or vertical wall planters on your porch, balcony, or patio.
Lack a green thumb?
Start with low maintenance plants like white and sweet potatoes, winter squash, onions and garlic. I love growing green onions on my kitchen windowsill because they are low maintenance and I can trim the tops off whenever I want. Wait until you see these babies grow!
9. Taco Night
Who doesn’t love a good taco night, am I right?
Get the whole family involved. One person can chop the veggies, another can prepare the rice and beans, while the young kids or grandkids can add the spices or mash the tofu (like in this delicious Tofu Ground "Beef").
And if needed, someone can cook up the ground meat so they aren’t missing out on a thing.
10. Be Adventurous and Try a New Food (or Meal)
Decide together on a new and interesting food to try. Some fun ones are jackfruit (a great swap for pulled pork or chicken, like in these Jackfruit Tacos) or a new food combo (like these plant-based Mushroom Walnut Ground “Beef”).
Exotic fruits are always fun to explore, like dragon fruit or papaya. Or, if you haven’t ventured down this road yet, you can explore the versatility of chickpeas. Right now I am loving these Hearty Chickpea Meatballs.
11. Complete a 30-Day Mindfulness Challenge Together
Mindfulness is the quality or practice of being fully and 100% aware in the present moment. Practicing mindfulness techniques means exercising your ability to let go of the past and future and instead focus on and be fully present in the “now”.
Practicing mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as increase focus and a sense of calm.
A mindfulness challenge could entail practicing a mindfulness technique of your choice (or a number of mindfulness and breathing techniques scheduled throughout a 30-day period). One effective mindfulness technique to incorporate into your schedule is the 5 Senses Exercise.
To practice the 5 Senses Exercise you simply pause for a moment and tune into your 5 senses. Answer these questions:
What do I see?
What do I hear?
What do I feel?
What do I smell?
What do I taste?
You can also use a pre-made challenge (many simple challenges can be found on Pinterest, like this 30-day mindfulness challenge).
Trying to live a healthy lifestyle and adopting new habits can be especially challenging when you feel like you are doing it alone.
Using creative, “noncommittal” ways to involve the ones you love in healthy living can make your efforts easier and more sustainable.
Set realistic expectations that your family and friends will come around to your newfound commitment to healthy eating and moving more.
With time, your loved ones will notice how amazing your lifestyle changes make you feel. Your “quiet example” just may end up being infectious.
Looking for more support in making heart healthy changes for good? Check out my 6 Week Action Plan for restoring heart health or learn more about the next upcoming Women's Group Health Coaching program.
Looking for fun recipe ideas to share with the family? Check out my FREE 7-Day Heart Health-Restoring Meal Plan.