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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Get a dog

Dog owners live longer, research shows*, and it's down to regular "walkies" and throwing sticks in the park.

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Cut out the short cuts

Take a good look at your daily routine, and find all the opportunities you're missing to take the active option. Take the stairs rather than the escalator. If you can, walk to the shops rather than driving or at least park a bit further away and walk the rest.

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Go exploring

Buy a local map and go for family cycles or walks every weekend. Make it more interesting by choosing somewhere new to explore every time.

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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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Make a game of it

Do active jobs together at home such as hoovering, sweeping, or raking the leaves. If your children have a competitive streak, have a race to see who can get finished their jobs first.

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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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Check out local leisure facilities

Check out your local community or leisure centre for winter classes and activities such as aerobics, badminton, table tennis, basketball, dancing, martial arts, cub scouts or youth clubs.

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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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Shopping

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 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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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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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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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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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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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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Buy more unprocessed food than processed

Processed foods are higher in fat and salt and lower in other nutrients than food in its natural state. Go easy on the ready meals and choose chicken, turkey, pork and beef more often than processed meats such as luncheon meat, ham and bacon.

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Make food fun

Serve party food in interesting ways such as pineapple shells filled with fruit and sandwiches cut into different shapes.

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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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Mealtimes

Try a wholemeal scone with banana for an on-the-go breakfast!

Choosing wholegrains and fruit means that you'll get the fibre you need for a healthy digestive system. It will also keep you fuller for longer and keep you going until lunchtime.

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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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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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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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Try wholemeal or granary toast for breakfast.

Toast is a favourite for breakfast. Wholemeal, granary or brown breads are they're higher in fibre and tastier. It's best to avoid too much spread and low fat options are even better.

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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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Prefer uncoated meat

Battered or breaded meats have more fat and salt than unprocessed meats. It doesn't take much longer to cut a chicken breast into pieces and bake in the oven than it does to bake some chicken nuggets.

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Boost your breakfast with fruit

If you have a bowl of cereal for breakfast, add some chopped fruit like an apple, banana or some raisins to boost your fruit intake. And do the same for the children!

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Take five with fruit

Cut up a few pieces of fresh fruit and take them to work in a plastic container or freezer-bag. Pop some into your child's school-bag too as a mid-morning snack.

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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

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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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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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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Swap sugary drinks for milk or tap water

Milk and water are healthiest. If you drink juice, choose real fruit juice not juice drinks. These have lots of added sugar and very little real fruit. Avoid tooth decay by drinking juice with meals and for young children ideally dilute one part juice to 10 parts water.

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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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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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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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Yummy scone

Wholemeal scone pieces topped lightly with spread makes a great simple snack for the whole family. Why not top with sliced banana or cheese.

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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

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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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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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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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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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 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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