Together counts

By Efrosini Costa

Together counts
Former Olympian and mum of two, Susie O’Neil, is encouraging parents to make a commitment to a healthier lifestyle for their families this month.

The back to school and work period is a busy time but it’s also a perfect opportunity for families to form new habits and routines, O’Neil says.

The swimming star is the spokesperson for Together Counts, an international campaign connecting likeminded families through an online community, aimed at teaching them more about energy balance and how they can apply the concept in their everyday life.

We spoke to the former athlete about her role in promoting families to make a pledge for a happy healthy lifestyle.

What is energy balance and why is it so important?

Energy balance is essentially balancing the kilojoules we consume with the kilojoules we burn, and it is essential for your health. Together Counts aims to help improve the current energy ‘imbalance’ in Australia via education on diet and physical activity.

Why do you think making a pledge as a family is important?  

The idea of creating a community around this commitment is so friends and family can work as a team to encourage each other to keep up the good habits and let go of the bad! Plus, the 100 most creative pledges will receive a $100 Woolworths voucher to kick-start their new commitment to a healthy lifestyle. Find out how to make a pledge now

What have you and your family or friends pledged as part of Together Counts?

We have pledged to do more physical activity together as a family, especially on the weekends. As a mum of two, I have also pledged to create healthy lunchboxes for the kids each day, as well as sticking to a healthy meal plan during the school week. This leaves room for the occasional treat on weekends!

What are your best tips for busy families to stay healthy?

– Try cooking together as a family. You have to do it regardless, so why not make it a bonding and learning experience for your kids? It will give them the chance to learn some life skills, and to develop a passion for healthy foods.

– Put some time aside each week to exercise as a family. Exercise can be as simple as taking the dog for a walk after dinner, or going for a bike ride on a Saturday morning.  

– Agree on a team sport and take it up as a family. This will guarantee your kids weekly exercise at games and training, and there are many ways for parents to get involved from coaching, to even playing yourself.

– Housework is a fantastic form of exercise! Research has shown that 25 minutes of housework, or 18 minutes of gardening will burn 100 calories apiece.

– Write out a shopping list before buying your groceries. By planning your meals out for the week and buying only the necessary ingredients, it’s easy to stick to a nice healthy diet, avoid eating out mid-week.

How do you like to keep active?

No one would be surprised to learn that I enjoy swimming for exercise! I also enjoy going for bike rides with the family on weekends.

There are so many benefits to be had from being fit and healthy and families should enjoy some of these activities together. Whether it is a weekend bike ride, or passing the footy around after school or work, parents can certainly motivate their kids to get active.

So where does one start?

The best way to join the Together Counts community is to make a Together Counts pledge and make a commitment to a healthier lifestyle.

You can also regularly visit the website or join the Together Counts Facebook page, which are regularly updated with some of my top tips and recommendations for family fitness, and healthy eating. You’ll find family activity worksheets, recipes, and fitness tips for the whole family.

What else can we expect to find on the Together Counts website? 

The purpose of the Together Counts Australia website is to be an ongoing source of inspiration for Australians looking to achieve energy balance and lead healthier lives. Check back every few weeks to find new resources for fitness and healthy eating.

Together Counts is a part of an industry led, multi-year strategy to assist Australians improve their health and wellbeing. It launched in October 2012, with the food industry pledging to reduce risk nutrients (sodium, saturated fat and energy) from across their product portfolios by 2015, to positively impact Australia’s health and reduce the incidence of chronic preventable disease.


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