Archive for the ‘Physical Activity’ Category

At a young age, health habits develop and can affect your child throughout their lives, especially when it comes to eating and physical activity.  You are the fundamental decision-maker when it comes to the well-being of your child and can help him or her make healthy decisions from early on.  Take advantage of your role and foster your child’s 7 healthy habits…they can make a lifetime of difference.

Healthy kids get physical activity every day!

Healthy kids: 

  1. Get at least one hour of physical activity daily.  Shorter bouts of exercise that tally up to 60 minutes count! Strive for vigorous activity at least three days per week.  Try to make physical activity a part of your family’s fun routine and schedule activities together.
  2. Limit “screen time” to less than two hours per day.  Researchers show a strong correlation with the number of hours spent watching TV to increased rates of obesity in children.  Regulating the amount of time your child spends in front of a screen like television, video games and computers, promotes less sit-down time which can result in more activity and less overeating.
  3. Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages.  Urge your child to drink water, 100% fruit juice or low fat milk instead of soda, sugar-sweetened fruit drinks, sports drinks, and sweetened iced teas.  These sugary drinks offer little nutritional value and excess calories that can contribute to weight gain.  Limiting sugary drinks in your home can support your child in choosing healthier options.
  4. Eat five or more cups of fruits and veggies daily.  Fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense, low calorie foods that provide fiber, promoting fullness after meals.  Reaching 5 cups per day can be accomplished by serving fruit at every meal, and a vegetable at 2 meals and/or snacks.  If you want more fruits and veggies to be eaten, make sure you have ample choices in your kitchen.
  5. Eat 5 family meals weekly.  Eating meals together gives you a chance to help your child develop a healthy attitude toward food. It also allows you to serve as a healthy eating role model, make sure your kids are eating nutritious foods, and introduce new foods.  Set aside your meals as family time and eat together as often as possible.
  6. Eat nutritious snacks.  Plan meals and snacks to occur every 3-4 hours.  Skipping meals or snacks can be a trap for overeating later on.  Help your kids by having wholesome power snacks on hand that defy hunger.  Opting for whole foods will give your child a rich source of nutrients and will help them be physically satisfied.
  7. Eat “fun foods” in moderation. There are endless opportunities for fun foods like sweets, soda, and fried foods. Balancing “fun foods” with a variety of whole, natural foods from the new food guide (more on this soon) is the key to healthy eating.  Aim for 1 to 2 “fun foods” daily—it’s a good rule of thumb.  Help your child make decisions about what is most special!

The best time to start instilling these behaviors in children is when they’re young, before unhealthy choices become bad habits.  Research shows children are more willing to eat healthy foods and be active if they see their parents doing it first.   Just telling your kids what to do won’t work (that’s the Authoritarian way)—they need to see you choosing healthy behaviors!

The American Dietetic Association offers a free healthy habits for healthy kids guide and healthy habits quiz you can take here to find out if your family is on track.

Summer is a great time to work on the 7 Habits!

Contributing Author:  Katherine Fowler, MS, RD, LDN


Read Full Post »

Kids speak…and people listen.

Here’s a follow-up to my post from the 11 year old who had an opinion on junk food.  I was reminded by John, from the American Institutes for Research an assistant to  NHLBI in their health outreach efforts, that it isn’t just about food…there is more at play (literally) when talking about childhood obesity (and, I couldn’t agree more, John…).

Turn Off the TV!

John pointed out an important piece to the puzzle, and here’s what he has to say:

“It’s pretty amazing to see how perceptive an 11 year-old can be about the obesity problem in America.  But junk food is only part of the problem.  Every day, children and teens spend more than four hours watching TV and more than seven hours using entertainment media instead of engaging in physical activity. These children are more likely to be overweight than children who walk, run, and play more often.”

John reminded me that this week is Turn Off the Screen Week (April 18-24), a week of replacing TV (and other screens such as the computer) with more physical activity for kids.

Happily, spring is sprouting and the heat is usually enough enticement to get kids outside.  If you need tips for getting your kids to be more active, check out this list from WeCan! (Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity and Nutrition),a science-based national education program from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). And if that’s not enough, they have also come up with a tip sheet for reducing screen time.

Will you be turning off the TV this week?  C’mon….

Read Full Post »

Children’s sporting events provide an extreme window into the temptations of childhood eating. The culture of snacking at these events is ingrained and almost a ritual.  Reversing this culture is an uphill battle and one that requires parents and sports organizations to survey several issues.

For parents who are interested in the quality of snacks at sporting events, it may be wishful thinking to expect healthy items like fruit or vegetables–they are not the norm.  Rather, parents are more likely to see chips, crackers, cookies, sugar-sweetened beverages, and desserts shopped around to their little athletes. If you are trying to focus on feeding your child in a healthy manner, sporting events are often a landmine of high sugar, high fat, nutrient-poor food items that will sabotage your healthy eating efforts!

Issue #1:  Do kids even need a snack at a sporting event?  When did we buy into the idea that kids need to eat their way through a soccer game?  Sure, if your child is playing an active game, in the heat, and for over an hour,  a re-fueling snack and fluids to maintain energy, focus and hydration makes sense.   A granola bar, cheese and crackers, fresh fruit, or a cheese stick is helpful and healthy—cookies and donuts are not.

Issue #2:  Why do adults think that children want sugary, high fat foods when they play sports?  Aside from the LACK of nutrients they provide, they do little for enhancing a child’s sports performance. Most children at recreational sporting events do not need this–a nutritious breakfast or lunch will do the trick.

Issue #3:  We are sending the wrong message.  Play a sport and get a food reward.  Eat sweets at the end of a game.  For children, sporting events have turned into a means to an end–eating treats.

Issue #4:  Many drinks at weekend games are inappropriate for children.  Drinks are often laden with added sugar–think juice boxes, Capri Sun, Koolaid, soda, etc.  Children’s bodies need water.  What about Gatorade or similar drinks?  Again, if your child is running and sweating for more than an hour, sports drinks can be helpful in repleting lost nutrients such as sodium, chloride, and potassium.  Many children are not “sweating it out” like this until they are at the high school level.

Encouraging children to be active is part of being a health-oriented parent and raising healthy children. Physical activity is an important part of maintaining a healthy weight and a healthy body.  Feasting after physical activity seems to negate its positive effects and promote untimely and potentially excessive eating.

My own child said to me once, “Mom, if I bring orange slices for snack, everyone will be disappointed”.

I have vowed to be the boring mom who brings the healthy snack to the soccer game.  Someone has to be a role model and take the heat…I mean lead.  I invite you to join me.

Read Full Post »

Our family just got a trampoline.  I am almost embarrassed to admit this.  It reminds me of when my first child was born, and I swore that she would NEVER watch Barney…well, she never did, but my second child was IN LOVE with Barney.  How did that happen? After many years of raising children, I have learned that “NEVER” is a hollow word and often, likely to happen…and it has with the trampoline.

After many years of denying my children this pleasure, mostly out of fear of injury on my part, I finally acquiesced.  Frankly, the pleading, begging, and arm-twisting got old.  And, I had to agree that the trampolines of 2010 looked safer than I had remembered.

One of the biggest barriers for me was the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stance on trampolines.  They state that injuries on home trampolines are on the rise. While most injuries involve cuts and sprains, some may be serious and involve head and neck injuries. The AAP discourages the use of trampolines at home, school, and in community settings.

Further, an article in the British Medical Journal from 2009, acknowledged the rise in popularity of the trampoline, as well as the rise in injury, and found that the following factors were associated with trampoline injury:

  • the presence of more than one jumper on the trampoline (they noted that the lightest jumper is more likely to experience injury)
  • lack of a safety net
  • lack of adult supervision, particularly for mounting/dismounting, and keeping the “craziness” moderate

They also outlined preventive strategies:

  • sober Adult supervision (alcohol, parents/adults, and jumping do not mix well)
  • Mesh netting around the edge of the trampoline to prevent falling off
  • one Person at a time

Despite these dangers, we are trampoline owners.  My kids are thrilled, and my husband and I have sustained a brief period of heroism in our home and neighborhood.  My kids are surely enjoying this flying, bouncing, trajectory-producing play toy.  They are on it frequently, spending more time jumping, flipping, and somer-saulting than even I could have imagined.

Our family is implementing the preventive strategies above, to enhance the safety of jumping, and prevent injury.  Despite this, I still hold my breath as they mount, watch them carefully, and insist on the “trampoline rules”.

Never say never…or you may find yourself scratching your head, holding your breath, biting your nails, enforcing the rules, and supervising.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: