They’re spending more family time together, the kids are sleeping better, activity levels are up, TV levels are down, tummies are more “in tune”, and their health-related worries have eased.
And they credit a lot of it to the QUT-led PEACH program – a free healthy lifestyle six-month program aimed at families and funded by the Queensland Government.
Meet the Drydens
Brisbane’s Dan and Carly Dryden, and their children Ava (7) and Sienna (4), joined the program mid-2015 after seeing a TV story about it.
“My wife and I had been talking about going to a dietitian to make sure we were getting it right for our kids, so I jumped on the web to look up the PEACH program and it was just what we were looking for,” Dan said.
The family already ate healthy food, but portion size and knowing when tummies were full was more of an issue – particularly combined with a lack of exercise.
“In Australia, if you have a toddler or baby and they are hoeing into their food everyone praises you: ‘Oh what a good eater’, it is something that is celebrated, and the Dryden’s have celebrated this approach to eating with all our family,” Dan said. “But that ‘healthy appetite’ can turn into a problem.”
Meet the PEACH Program
The PEACH program includes nine weekly group sessions at a local community venue (plus a 10th follow-up session down the track) which focus on teaching parents about nutrition, relationships with food and eating, how to change family lifestyle behaviours and making healthy eating affordable.
While the parent sessions are taking place, the kids enjoy active play with a trained child physical activity facilitator.
“The girls were both a little bit shy at first and didn’t want to be there, but it taught them it is fun to be active and play games and run around and get sweaty,” Dan said.
“We went in thinking we’ve got improve our eating habits but what we got out of it was a more wholistic view about a healthy lifestyle for the whole family.
“We’re very aware now that activity level goes hand in hand with screen time and we’ve limited screen time. With eating, the big message we are trying to get through to both our kids is ‘listen to your tummy – know when you are full’.”
The importance of routines
Routine is now very important in the Dryden household.
“Screens go off at dinner-time and stay off,” Dan said.
“Dinner time goes into tidying up time, into bath time, and to bedtime. We went from struggling to get them into bed by 7.30-8pm to now being in bed at 7pm every night. And they are sleeping in more too so overall they are getting much more sleep.
“The girls do karate, we’ve bought a couple of basketballs and we walk to school sometimes. We have a pool and that gets lots of use and they love dance parties. And once every couple of weeks we do something very active, like all go do a bushwalk together.”
Dan said he went into PEACH hoping there would be a “lightbulb moment” or “silver bullet” that would change everything.
“But there wasn’t that one magic thing,” he said. “It was about wholistic lifestyle changes and doing it bit by bit – but it has worked. One of the biggest things is that the kids’ attitude toward being active has changed – there’s not a groan every time we talk about it. And, as parents, it’s about us enabling that activity and getting past that ‘too busy’ factor.”
Families with a primary-school aged child are eligible for the free PEACH (Parenting, Eating and Activity for Child Health) program, which is run by QUT’s School of Exercise of Nutrition Sciences. Call 1800 263 519 or register directly at http://www.peachqld.com.au/.
This article was published in Issue 14 of our print magazine, February/March 2016.