Happy first day of June! I always get so excited when June hits because that means summer has officially started. The weather is perfect, the water parks start opening, and it stays light outside so late. I really love this time of year!

To kick off June, we have chosen to spotlight my friend Katie. She is a wonderful example of how to keep yourself and your family healthy despite being busy. I learn a lot from her about exercise and nutrition, and I know she will be an inspiration to our readers!

Meet Katie:

Tell us a little about yourself I am a wife, mother of three little ones, and an R.N. I have loved being active and exercising for a long time, but learned to cook (and to love cooking!) more recently. My husband and I both enjoyed being outside and being active before we had kids and we have tried to incorporate that into our family now. We loved to rock climb, hike, camp, run, bike, and swim. Really anything outside. With work, school, graduate school, kids and everything else that is a part of life, it has not always been easy to keep up with these things, but we have seen huge benefits of being active and eating healthy together.

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What types of activities do you enjoy doing with your family that keep you active? We love to be outside together. Before we had kids we could easily get outside to climb, hike, bike, or exercise. Now it takes a lot more planning and preparation. We still love to be outside but we have changed how we spend our time being active to accommodate three little ones and a busy schedule. We go on walks, go running together with a stroller and our oldest on a bike. We also will get everyone ready to go bike somewhere fun. We have biked as a family to outdoor concerts, ice cream shops, to feed the ducks at a park, and even to a parade. We love to squeeze in a hike or a camping trip when we can. It just takes a little more planning than it used to!

How do you continue to keep your kids active during the cold winter months? In the winter it can be harder to be motivated to get everyone out the door. Before kids we could go snow shoeing and ice skating and skiing to enjoy the season and be active. this is not easy at all with kids. We try to be active indoors as much as we can, too. For example, the kids love dance parties and although it is not quite the same as biking outside or going on a walk, it still gets them moving and instills a sense of fun and joy with movement and being active. I think that is important as they grow older and start to make their own choices about exercise and eating healthy.

How do you keep your family motivated to stay active and healthy? I don’t think you have to do anything too complicated or too thought out to keep kids motivated. Kids are movers and will always have the energy to go do things (as long as nappers get their naps in!). I think making it fun is important and ending a bike ride or swim lesson with a snack or something else they like never hurts either. We have found that rotating activities keeps everyone happy and interested. I have to remind myself to go with the flow when we do things as a family. Things don’t always work out as planned. If we are not enjoying what we are doing or feeling stressed out about it, the kids will not enjoy it either. Fun is the answer!

 Do you talk to your children about health related topics, such as exercise or eating healthy? Yes and no. We talk about food being necessary for our bodies to help us grow and have energy. We sometimes talk about what kinds of food give us good things (calcium for strong bone, vitamin A to help our eyes to see and keep our body healthy, protein to help build muscles, etc) However, I think that a lot of what they know and understand about being healthy comes from what we do and what they see us do.

 How do your kids react to eating healthy? I am not sure they even realize that they are eating healthy because it is just what is in front of them. That is not to say that every healthy meal is a success. They still would much rather eat french fries than many of the things they see at dinner. However, we just try to provide them with as many opportunities as possible to try new and healthy foods. Some new, healthy foods are a huge success. Other meals are NOT. If we are trying something new, I try to always have at least one thing they like on their plate. For example, maybe we will have a new entree, but then a favorite fruit or veggie on the side.

 Some people feel like it is too expensive to eat healthy on a budget, how do you manage this?I think the first thing we try to do is keep it simple. I am kind of a no nonsense, no frills kind of cook. We eat wide variety of foods. We love to make Thai, Indian, Mexican, Mediterranean, and all sorts of food. Our weeknight meals are not usually anything too crazy or expensive, just good simple food (rice and other whole grains, beans, lentils, eggs, etc). We usually only make meat or fish once a week just because that is our preference, but it also helps with our budget.

 We have learned how to make lots of things on our own (bread, yogurt, granola, snacks) and I think that helps in a few ways. We can make healthy foods with simple ingredients, we like them better, and it is usually cheaper.

Where we live there is also an outdoor public market where I can get a lot of produce for cheap. Just having fresh fruits and veggies in the house changes how we eat. I can also get local eggs and meat there. Summer is a great time to buy a lot of great local produce that is in season and gives us the opportunity to try lots of things we would not try on our own. For example, a friend talked me into a huge thing of brussel sprouts at the end of last summer. I was skeptical at first, but we loved eating them roasted! I also buy extra fruit (blueberries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines) to freeze and use later in the year.

How many days a week do you exercise? What are your favorite types of exercise? What do you do to change up your exercise routine so you aren’t doing the same thing all the time? I exercise 5-6 days a week. I love to run, swim, and bike. I also love strength training and Pilates. I think there are a lot of things that help me to stay motivated. Variety helps me a lot. When I get burned out from running several times a week, I will swap out a run for a swim or a bike. If I get tired of swimming, I start running more, etc. I think that making time to lift weights and do Pilates in the week also helps because I am not always doing cardio workouts. I also think that these things compliment my cardio activities and help reduce injuries. Working out with friends, trying new things, and having goals (like a race or an event) help too!

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With 3 young kids and a busy husband, how do you find time to exercise? To put it simply, I just have to make it a priority. I know how much better I feel once I have been out of the house and have done something active. That motivates me to get out the door with my kids and go do it (even though getting out the door and getting there can be a workout in and of itself!) My YMCA membership has child care for my kids while I work out. It makes it possible  for me to work out on my own schedule instead of waiting for a time when my husband is home or for someone else to watch my kids.

Do you have health goals for yourself for the next 1-5 years? I would love to run a marathon, do a triathlon, and keep trying new healthy foods :)

 What has been your biggest health related accomplishment? I think that just trying to be consistently active and trying to eat healthy with 3 kids, a very busy husband and the usual demands of life is its own achievement!

 How do you practice healthy eating while not restricting any foods? What helps you keep a healthy relationship with food?For me, these two questions go hand in hand. I think that not restricting foods actually helps me to eat healthier. Then eating and meal planning do not feel stressful or like a chore. I can eat healthy and still enjoy what I am eating. There are so many ways to eat a healthy balanced diet. I think that there is room in that balance for dessert and things you like to eat. There is also endless variety and I think that trying new recipes, new types of food, and new ways to eat healthy make things fun, too. I try not to get too caught up in food fads and always keep it simple!

What is the biggest factor that has kept you motivated to live a healthy lifestyle? I think that for our family, living a healthy lifestyle has been its own reward. My husband and I both notice how taking care of our diet and exercising has made us more positive and grounded, better able to focus at work or whatever task is at hand, and enriches our sense of self. It is also motivating to think that while we see benefits in the short term, a healthy lifestyle is something that can make our lives better and healthier in the future.

Thank you Katie!