Top Fitness & Nutrition Tips from Fitness Expert Denise Austin & Renowned Nutritionist Riska Platt

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Make a Plan

  • Call a family meeting and have a frank discussion about your family's physical fitness health

  • Ask family members for suggestions on how the whole family can shape up individually and together

  • Prepare a plan of action and display it in high traffic areas. We keep ours on the refrigerator

  • Plan should include fitness "log" that will allow individuals to note dates, activities, length of exercise, who exercised with whom and feelings about the exercise

Schedule a regular time for physical activity

  • Family members will know that this is the time they should be active, go on a family walk or ride. All electronic devices should be turned off!

  • Family members can take turns selecting an activity for the family to do as a group each week. My girls and I like to take a quick walk around the neighborhood before we head inside for dinner.

  • Help everyone find something they like to do and makes them feel successful

  • Invite extended family members or friends to fitness outings if possible

  • Emphasize the importance of having fun and learning; avoid a push "to win"

  • Set limits for time spent watching television programs, videotapes, and playing computer games

Consider creating an indoor play area where kids can be physical

  • One of my friends has a spare bedroom that she filled with tumbling mats and mattresses. When cabin fever sets in, she sends her kids in there for an hour or two

  • Rolling, climbing, jumping, tumbling areas are great. Set up jungle gym in the basement on a soft carpet

This holiday season focus on toys that promote physical activity

  • Balance the gifts with fitness in mind. Buy skates (for ice or road) for the whole family and lace up! Reward kids with fitness-oriented gifts for good report cards. Keep your individual child or spouse's skills and interests in mind

  • In general, use physical activity (rather than food or other toys) as a reward

For additional inspiration check out the home page on and check out my weekly fitness tips there

  • P.S. If you're feeling lucky, send us your favorite fitness or healthy lifestyle tip and you may win a prize (contest details are posted on the site)

Author's Note:
Denise hosts her own "Daily Workout" show on Lifetime Television Network and is a nationally recognized fitness expert. She is also a member of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

Moving Into the Kitchen … Riska Platt, M.S., R.D., Offers Her Favorite Tips to Healthy Eating for the Whole Family

Create a Healthy Eating Plan for the Whole Family

  • Just as Denise suggests holding a family meeting to discuss and create a family fitness plan, I strongly recommend a family meeting to discuss and create a healthy eating plan

  • Involving your family in the plan creates awareness and empowerment

  • You don't have to start from scratch, use the Food Guide Pyramid to help you. The Food Guide Pyramid recommends a range of foods and serving sizes:

    • Bread, cereal, rice and pasta group: 6-11 servings. Another great carbohydrate source is potatoes. One Idaho Potato delivers 26 grams of carbohydrates and functions as a great energy food. I encourage my clients to power up with potatoes!

    • Vegetable group: 3-5 servings

    • Fruit group: 2-4 servings

    • Milk, yogurt and cheese group: 2-3 servings

    • Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts group: 2-3 servings

    • Fats, oils and sweets: use sparingly

Note: A revised set of Dietary Guidelines for Americans will be released in 2005 along with a new food guidance graphic.

Be a Good Role Model for Your Family

  • They do watch and learn from you (your food choices and lifestyle habits help set your children's food decisions and behavior)

  • Give them good choices - keep fresh fruit and veggies washed, cut-up, chilled and readily available at all times

  • Keep chilled water handy (make this the first line of beverages offered in the fridge). Flavored seltzer (with no added sugar) is another great no-cal beverage and kids love the bubbles!

  • Maintain a regular meal schedule. When kids miss meals, they tend to snack more

  • Encourage your children to try new foods

  • Try and gather all family members together for at least one meal a day. Encourage family members to eat slowly and to be aware of when they are feeling full - that is when it is time to stop eating

  • Watch portion sizes! I'm convinced this is what gets many in trouble!

  • Snacks can be healthy, like crunchy carrots and sweet watermelon. Discuss snack options with kids and agree that no snacks will be offered two hours or more before meals, to ensure healthy appetites.

  • Take the family grocery shopping and encourage your children to be aware of/read the nutrition labels.

  • Make it a contest to find the tastiest cereal with the most fiber per serving

Carry Healthy Eating Habits into School Year

  • Pack healthy lunches and snacks for kids (or have them do it for themselves!) Remind them to include beverage (water's great or skim milk in appropriate packaging), protein (meat or peanut butter, if allergies aren't an issue) on whole grain bread), yogurt (cross a dairy requirement off the list) and fresh fruit or vegetable

  • Keep an eye on the school menu if your student likes to buy his or her meals and discuss healthy choices

  • Start the day off right with breakfast. Countless studies have shown a correlation between eating a healthy breakfast and performance in school. Make the Idaho Potato Breakfast Scramble for them - it calls for turkey sausage, eggs and mashed Idaho Potato flakes - they'll love it and their bodies and their minds will be fueled up for the day. Check out this recipe and dozens of others in the recipe section on

Power Your Family Up for a Healthy Lifestyle

  • I don't advocate the elimination of any major food group from a diet. Carbohydrates have come under attack as of late and this is a sad state of affairs. The majority of nutritionists believe that carbohydrates are the best fuel for working muscles. I believe that potatoes are one of the best sources of complex carbohydrates and thus function as a great energy food.

  • Include Idaho Potatoes in your family's meal planning and you'll be glad you did. (One medium potato delivers 3 grams of dietary fiber, 4 grams of protein, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 45% of the RDA for Vitamin C, plus thiamin, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, copper and folic acid - not to mention built-in portion control! Visit for more information.

Author's Note:
Widely respected in the field of nutrition, Riska Platt, M.S., R.D., is a national spokesperson for the Idaho Potato Commission and American Heart Association. She is Director of Nutrition for Manhattan-based OccuHealth - occupational, environmental and preventive medical consultants and she maintains a private practice where she counsels executives about dietary concerns such as weight control and lowering cholesterol levels.