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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

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