Welcome to Little Steps

Welcome to Little Steps, the step-by-step guide to eating well and being active for you and your family. Take your first little step to a healthier life today.

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Healthy Meal Planner

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Rainy Days

Activity

Get wet - in an indoor pool

Swimming is a great activity for the whole family at all times of year. You might not be setting Olympic records but it will still help you and your children towards your daily amount.

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Walk for fun and fitness

There are lots of walks all around the country for people of all ages, so get to know routes that are close to you. See here for more information. Make sure you have the right clothes and you won't notice the weather.

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Make the most of windy weather

Just because the sun has gone it doesn't mean you can't go to the beach. Wrap up well and try an activity like flying a kite.

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Let your child lead

Ask your child about what activities and games they enjoy in school, PE, or in the playground - and maybe you can try them at home.

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Get a bike

Cycling is even better for your heart than walking, so get a bike and use it to get to work, pop to the shops, or enjoy the outdoors.

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Dance it off

Hold a disco or some other activity so that the children can be active and burn up some of the calories they will be eating.

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Get off the couch

Be a role model for your children - if they see you being active and enjoying it they will be more likely to model your behaviour.

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Wrap up

Remember, there's no such thing as unsuitable weather - just unsuitable clothing. Wear layers and get a waterproof jacket. A hi-vis vest will help drivers spot you when you are out and about.

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Focus on fun

Teach your children how to play traditional games, such as hide and seek, tip the can, red rover, tag and hopscotch. You'll all have fun! Find out how to play here

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Get competitive with cleaning

Housework has to be done whatever the weather. Encourage your kids to help with jobs around the house, such as washing the floor or hoovering. Turn the jobs into a competition to encourage them to work up a sweat.

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Shopping

Eat before you shop

It's never a good idea to shop on an empty stomach. You're more likely to rush things, make poor choices and go for a quick sugar fix by picking up an unhealthy snack.

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Christmas

Little steps for a healthier christmas

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Stock up on some quick options

Get some canned and dried nutritious foods for your kitchen cupboard. You can rustle up a healthy meal in minutes with tinned fish and tomatoes, pasta and dried herbs. Or baked beans on toast - super fast and protein packed!

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Keep it lean

Ask the butcher to trim off any visible fat. Small servings of lean meat deliver all the nutrients you need and you save money on the extra weight!

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Love the labels

Learn to read food labels, and take advantage of information that will help you make healthy shopping choices. Compare like for like products and choose those that are lower in fat, salt and sugar.

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Try a new fruit or vegetable every week

Variety is the name of the game with healthy eating and it's great fun trying out new foods together. The more new foods that children are introduced to the more likely they are to have a varied diet.

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Make a list

Write a shopping list before you go, then stick to it as you shop. Planning your meals for the coming week will help you put the list together.

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Plan your snacks

Let your children have some choice in what their snack foods are. If you agree this with them it will be easier to stick to the plan during the week.

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Check your trolley before you finish

Is it mostly filled with starchy foods, fruit and vegetables? If not restore some balance by adding some.

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Stock up on tinned and frozen vegetables

All types of vegetables count towards our 5-a-day - fresh, frozen and canned. Get some for your cupboard to use when fresh supplies are low or worse for wear.

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Mealtimes

Opt for either butter or sauce - not both - on your sandwich

Adding butter, margarine or dairy spread to our bread is something we tend to do automatically. But it's worth asking yourself whether you really need the spread? If you're adding mayonnaise, relish or other sauces to a sandwich, then you probably don't. Opt for one or the other, and go for lower-fat spreads like tomato relish when available.

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Get the whole family to help

Getting the family involved in cooking can be fun and a learning experience for everyone. Younger children can help tear lettuce leaves for salads. Older children can stir a spaghetti sauce or weigh ingredients.

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Eat breakfast

Many people skip breakfast hoping that it will help them lose weight. But research shows they're more likely to overeat later in the day. Give you and the family 10 extra minutes in the morning for some essential nutrition.

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Marinate your own meat

Marinate fresh lean meats like lean beef, lamb or chicken using your own home-made marinades rather than ready-made sauces. You'll cut down on the calorie content of the meal, as well as on sugar and salt. Try fresh coriander and lime juice as a marinade - it's delicious!

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Variety is the spice of life

The more foods your child is exposed to at an early age, the more balanced his or her diet will be.

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Choose tomato-based sauces instead of cream or butter

Whether you're dining out or cooking up an Italian storm in the kitchen, try having a tomato or vegetable-based sauce with your pasta. As well as being lower in fat than the creamy or cheesy sauces, they make the dish more colourful and you pack in more essential nutrients.

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Add vegetables to pizza

Add more vegetable toppings (like mushrooms, peppers, and onions) and less cheese to your pizza. Let your children decorate their own pizza to make mealtimes more fun.

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Go traditional with porridge.

Porridge has been a staple for years on the island of Ireland and for good reason. It's tasty, cheap, can be cooked in 3 minutes in the microwave and is full of vitamins and minerals. Use some fruit to sweeten it up instead of sugar or honey.

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Go fishy

Fish is a great, low-fat source of protein. Include it in your diet once or twice a week. Oily fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, herring and sardines are especially good for your heart. Start the children off with some grilled fish fingers to get used to the taste of fish - you can even easily make your own, just slice up a fillet of any white fish and coat in flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs.

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Have a fruity dessert

Fruit is naturally sweet and makes a great dessert. Mix some seasonal fruits together or pop some apple or pear in tin foil into the oven while dinner is cooking.

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Snacks

Not every day

Limit unhealthy treats to a few times each week and make sure you give them after meals rather than on their own between meals. You could reduce the size to a small packet of crisps or a "fun size" chocolate bar.

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All-day breakfast

Unsweetened cereal with milk is a snack the whole family can prepare themselves and enjoy anytime. Experiment by adding fruit, like bananas or berries.

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Bag some fruit and vegetables for home time

We're often starving after school or work, and it's so easy to pick up some crisps or chocolate. Try fresh fruit instead - you can buy different types for everyday to add lots of variety. You can also chop fruit and vegetables into pieces and store in a plastic bag or container to have on the go.

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Dip into healthy treats

Make healthy yoghurt-based dips, for example yoghurt and mango or yoghurt and mint, and serve with a variety of vegetables, carrot and cucumber slices are perfect and plain breadsticks.

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Get a water bottle

Whether we are at school, work or play we need to drink regularly. Having a water bottle handy will help remind you and the family to drink regularly.

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Don’t snack in front of the TV

Most people go into munching autopilot when they're distracted by the TV and don't realise when they're full. It's better if your children don't get into this habit.

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Ditch the crisps for home-made popcorn

Popcorn is low in fat and it contains fibre for healthy digestion. Popping your own takes only a couple of minutes, and you can omit salt. What could be easier?

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Get a mix of nuts

Nuts provide a healthy snack for children and there are lots of varieties that children can try. There are no preparation requirements and they provide a nutritional, filling snack for all the family. (Note: whole nuts should not be given to children under 5 years of age.)

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Need a milk fix? Try a milky mug

For the whole family, why not try a mug of cold or warm milk after school or other snack times. Use low fat or semi-skimmed milk for a fabulous calcium boost.

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Get creative with children’s rewards

Reward your children with a comic or book instead of sweets or crisps. Other rewards could include an outing to the park or swimming pool or just some time playing with you.

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Screentime

Make meals TV free

Turn off the TV during mealtimes - better still, don't have a TV in the kitchen or dining area.

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Have screen-free bedrooms

Don't put a TV or computer in your child's bedroom. Children with screens in their rooms get less exercise, interact less with their families, have poorer diets and get less sleep.

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Crowd out the TV

Think of fun things that your family will prefer to do instead of flopping on the sofa. How about a family walk after dinner instead of turning on the TV? Or cancelling the cable or satellite subscription and putting the money towards a special holiday instead?

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Turn it off if no-one’s watching

Don't keep the TV on in the background - if no one's watching, turn it off.

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Make TV time family time

Instead of buying a set for each member of the family - find programmes that the whole family likes to watch.

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Plan for 2 hours screen time a day

TV viewing and computer games can be addictive, so limit your children's screen time to 2 hours a day.

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Set an example

Your children will do as you do, so take stock of your own viewing habits and, if you need to, cut down on your own screen time too.

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Cut out afternoon TV

Get your children outdoors during daylight hours. Sunshine provides vitamins they need to grow healthily, and playing outside keeps them active.

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Get a TV guide

Get in the habit of planning your TV viewing. You'll find it easier to take control and monitor how much time your family is spending in front of the TV.

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My Little Steps