Dietitian and dad Daniel Thomson shares his tips for staying balanced as a parent, even when it feels like the wheels are falling off.

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They say learning how to be a parent is like riding a bike. Yeah, riding a unicycle through a paddock all night in the pitch black. You’re tired and not quite sure where you’re going, but you’re probably going to end up covered in poo.

So what about being a healthy parent as well? It might sound impossible, but whether you’ve got the support of a partner or venturing into this solo, it’s important to keep your health a priority.

Here are my five essential tips for making the ride into fatherhood a little less bumpy.

Keep your mind active

Having a child is an emotional rollercoaster. There’s no such thing as perfect, especially in parenting. So, cut yourself a little slack, particularly during the early stages of fatherhood. Keep the mind active; stress less, be happy, breathe in the air and enjoy your family. Look after your starter motor (brain); it’s got some kilometres to ride.

Keep your body moving

It’s obvious we get physical and mental benefits from exercise, but being fit has big parenting advantages. With an active body you’ll cope better with the nappy blow outs, hungry cries, burpy screams, not to mention the rest of your busy life. Get the stroller out and go for a walk or run. Oh, and pick up some bread while you're out!

Cook more meals

Cooking a batch of soup or stir fry that you can whip out over a couple of evenings can be extremely helpful, especially in a household where the cooking time has gone out the window. Be smart and think ahead when you prepare food, making sure you’re creating easy meals that are packed full of wholesome and nutritious ingredients. If you’re an expecting father, start working on your Jamie Oliver skills now and master a few staples. The more prepared you are, the easier it’ll be.

Be sensible about your sleeping habits

Sleep is a powerful 'reset' for the brain. It helps us stay calm, feel happy and be ready to cope with whatever life throws at us. Never before has a good sleeping pattern been so important, it’ll be the key to your body being able to function properly during this crazy time. Resist the temptation to spend your nights out or binging on Netflix as much as humanly possible. You’ll be a better dad, partner, work colleague, team member and person if you do.

Don't be afraid to ask for help or advice

Like riding that unicycle through a paddock, it's often difficult to navigate the twists and turns of being a father. There’ve been many who have made the trip though, and many who’ve used different methods. Like most things, there isn’t one approach to help you be the perfect dad. So don’t hesitate to reach out and seek advice from a range of different people. After all, according to Leonardo da Vinci, “Learning never exhausts the mind.”

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