It’s no surprise that the health of our loved ones is a topic that never loses steam. Why should it? We love them and want them to live a long time. But creating a healthy lifestyle can be challenging for some families. Believe me, I know. That’s why, when I watched Dr. Juan J. Rivera onstage at Festival People en Espanol, I was inspired by his passion to teach the community about living a healthy and active life.
Dr. Rivera, a.k.a Dr. Juan, is a board certified internist and cardiologist. He’s quite the busy doctor: Dr. Juan is currently the medical correspondent for Univision, writes a monthly column about health in People en Espanol, and even has a weekly morning radio health segment. You can also find him starring in “Strange Medicine,” a television show about alternative medicine. I’m exhausted just thinking about his schedule.
I had a chance to sit down and talk with the good doctor and I immediately asked him what inspired his passion for health. I was surprised to learn that he himself dealt with heart palpitations at the young age of 14. As a teen, this experience made him curious about his own health and why it was happening, which carried on through his education, right into medical school.
“Once I learned the physiology of the heart and how how the heart really works, which to me is like the plumbing system in your house, I was fascinated with it,” said Dr. Rivera.
This is a great lesson for any parent: if you want your child to care about good health at a young age, spark their interest by teaching them how the human body works. That’s why I asked Dr. Rivera to share a few easy steps on how we can teach our kids healthy living habits — starting now.
1. Lead by Example
First things first, he recommends that parents should set the example for their children. It’s a common mistake many parents make, but if we want our children to be healthy, then we need to be healthy ourselves. “That means you exercise with them, you encourage that. You give them the opportunity and the time to do it,” said Dr. Rivera.
2. Family “Food Prep” Time
Dr. Rivera strongly believes in spending family time together when preparing your meals. “When you’re cooking and hopefully making healthy meals, engage your kids. Take them to the supermarket, so they can pick what they’re going to eat for dinner, he said.” This will help them learn about the foods they should and shouldn’t be eating. He recommends explaining things like, how frying foods can result in a chance for higher cholesterol.
3. Eat Breakfast Together
You’ve heard this a million times but that’s because it’s true! So many times, our busy lives get in the way of skipping breakfast or not eating together. But according to Dr. Rivera, you and your family shouldn’t be missing breakfast, period. It’s the most important meal and can help stave off hunger throughout the day. “It’s a great moment to start the day, free of stress, and with the people you love — with your kids,” he said.
4. Relax at the Dinner Table
We already know that eating together as a family is an important family activity, so let’s extend that concept a little further. Dr. Rivera advises leaving all the day’s stresses behind, before sitting down for dinner with your family. “Sit at the dining table and just relax. Don’t think about work,” he said. “Allow, that stress to leave your mind and your body…and talk. Talk about life and make sure you know what your kids are up to.”
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