Mom's balancing act: How to take better care of yourself

Jul 12, 2012 at 6:00 p.m. ET

It doesn’t matter whether you are a working mom, a work-at-home mom or a stay-at-home mom — we all need to take good care of ourselves. Putting yourself and your health first is hard to do when you usually tend to your family’s needs first. Keep reading for ways to start making your health and fitness a priority.

Fuel your mom machine

Do you spend an excessive amount of time fretting over your weight? Maintaining a healthy weight is important for good health, but many moms starve themselves in an attempt to lose a few pounds. Keeping your body healthy means refueling at regular intervals throughout the day, even when your goal is weight loss.

"Food is fuel, but there are all kinds of nutrients in foods that do different things for the body," says Linda Bartholomay, registered dietician. Change the way you think about food and get away from that love-hate relationship. The right foods fuel your body and help you maintain energy — whether you are dancing at a wedding with your husband or chasing butterflies with your kids.

Snack attack

Admit it — you always remember to pack snacks for the kids, but what about for yourself? Enjoying snacks of no more than 150 calories several times during the day helps maintain your energy and focus. Snacks with protein and carbohydrates provide energy over a longer period of time than just the caffeine or sugar boost from a soda. Think tasty options like a handful of nuts, a banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter, hummus on whole-wheat crackers or a small container of yogurt.

Healthy options for the mid-morning munchies >>

Move it!

Did you know that many activities that qualify as exercise you might consider just fun? Aim to move your body for 30 minutes most days of the week, and get your whole family in on the action. Parents who enjoy being active with their kids are more likely to raise healthy, fit families. "What's important to important adults in children's lives becomes important to them," says Rae Pica, a movement education specialist and the author of A Running Start: How Play, Physical Activity, and Free Time Create a Successful Child.

Exercise can be playing a sport, but it can also be a fun activity like shooting hoops with your kids, raking leaves, bowling, walking the dog or jumping rope. “Sometimes I actually get people to exercise by removing the word exercise and just get them to move and keep moving,” says Douglas "Duffy" MacKay, naturopathic doctor and vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN).

Check out these heart-healthy family activities >>

Nia Vardalos weighs in

Academy Award nominated actress and screenwriter Nia Vardalos — a mother herself — has partnered with Dr. MacKay and the Life… supplemented wellness campaign, sponsored by the CRN. “Dr. Duffy was saying to just [start with a] walk around the block. Then the next day, you’re walking two and the next thing you know you’re walking an hour and you feel better! We all know every time we’ve added little things to our life we stick to them for longer and we end up feeling better,” says Nia when asked about how she incorporates exercise into her busy day. Nia defines a balanced lifestyle for her: “For me it meant having more energy and time to spend time with my daughter.”

Isn’t that what all moms need?

More healthy living for moms

How moms can model healthy breakfast habits
Monday Mom challenge: Address your health issues
Cool mom-friendly workouts that will keep you fit