Five Small Starts to Becoming a Healthier Family


As a family, you can start new habits that will help your children grow and develop properly, perform better in school, and feel better overall. These same healthy habits can also help prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. To help you and your family get started, the Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness created Small Starts, a series of simple action steps you can take that can lead to big health gains.


Here are some ideas from Healthier Tennessee and the Tennessee Department of Health that you and your family can try today to kick off a healthier lifestyle.

1. Get moving.

  • Take a stroll. Post-meal walks provide quality time with your family and help with digestion, controlling blood sugar and burning calories.
  • Throw a dance party. Turn on your favorite music and dance in your living room or hallway. Short bursts of activity burn calories and help kids use up extra energy. Let children take turns picking their favorite song.
  • Exercise during commercials. Think of a physical activity you can do indoors in just two minutes—jumping jacks, pushups, lunges or situps—and do that activity during commercial breaks when you watch TV. Finding even small intervals of time to get active can help your family become healthier.
  • Try these additional resources. GetFitTN offers a wide range of activities to get your family moving. Also try these other fun activities.

2. Eat well.

  • Eat healthier snacks. To make sure your family eats more fresh fruits and vegetables, keep carrot sticks, apple slices, pears and bananas readily available during the day as healthier snacking options.
  • Reduce sugar intake.Give your family a break from sugary, processed snacks. Try putting out fresh fruit, vegetables or whole-grain snacks like popcorn instead. Drink fewer sugary beverages, and encourage your family to drink water. You can add a squeeze of lemon, lime or orange to add some flavor.
  • Manage food portions. Balance is the key to a healthy diet. Before you put anything on your plate, mentally divide it in half. One side should be full of fruits and veggies; the other side should be equal parts meats/protein and whole grains.
  • Choose healthy recipes. For nutritious meal plans, visit the Tennessee Department of Health’s website.
  • Children have special nutritional needs. Find out how to provide kids a more balanced diet.
  • Get help feeding your family. You may be eligible for a state or federal food program in Tennessee.

3. Stop smoking.

  • To protect you and your children, don’t smoke!
    • Thirdhand smoke is also dangerous. The chemicals from cigarette smoke cling to soft surfaces, such as carpets, clothing and toys, and can harm your family even long after you’re done smoking.
  • Mark the date. Decide when you’ll quit tobacco and write it on your calendar. Also share the date on social media, so your friends and family will help you feel accountable and support your decision.
  • Make a list. Tobacco cravings can seem strong, but they usually last for only three minutes or less. Curb the craving for tobacco by listing the things you can do to distract yourself from smoking. When you feel the urge to smoke, pick one item from the list and do it right away. Examples of activities include drinking a glass of water, taking a quick walk, chewing gum, crunching healthy snacks, playing an online game or checking your social media sites.
  • Call for help. If you need one-on-one support, call or visit the Tennessee Tobacco QuitLine, a free telephone and online service, at 800-784-8669 or

4. Stay well.

  • Hand-washing is critical. Wash your hands with soap and water after using the restroom, after blowing your nose and before handling food. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wipes for those times when soap and water are not available.
  • Keep coughs under cover. Cover your mouth and nose whenever you need to cough or sneeze. Use a tissue whenever possible, or cough into the crook of your arm. Then head to the sink to wash up.
  • Get proper shots. Getting children up-to-date on their immunizations is also an important preventive method and a requirement for them to attend school. Find out what immunizations your child needs.
  • Prevention is key to staying healthy. 

5. Track success. Healthier Tennessee’s new Streaks for Small Starts iOS app will give you the tools to make better decisions for a lifetime of healthy habits—one small step at a time. The app, available as a free download from the iTunes App Store to your iPhone 5 (or higher), iPad or iPod touch, will enable you to:

  • Choose from nearly 50 simple daily health actions or challenges that encourage physical activity, healthy eating and tobacco cessation
  • Select and set health goals
  • Set daily reminders so you stay accountable
  • Track your progress and find out how you can improve
  • Share your successes on social media

For more information, visit Healthier Tennessee’s website.