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Posts Tagged ‘screen time’


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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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….

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No doubt most parents have savvy school-aged children who are able to navigate the web, program their iPhone, and operate the family plasma TV.  It is certainly true that we live in a technological world, and this is obvious in our children.  With the advent of advergames (advertisements on video and computer games) and advercation (advertisements on educational websites and games), children are lured to return to the “screen” to continue “playing”—but they aren’t playing like they used to!   Literally, children are letting their fingers do the walking.

What is “screen time”?   “Screen time” is a term to describe the variety of technological devices to which children are exposed for general entertainment.  “Screen time” encompasses anything with a screen–the TV, the Nintendo DS, the computer, the phone, the iTouch, the iPod, and the like. 

How does “screen time”  influence childhood obesity?  Researchers show a strong correlation with the number of hours spent watching TV to an increased prevalence of obesity in children.  If your child spends more than 2 hours in front of the TV per day, he/she is at greater risk for being overweight.   The effects of TV viewing and “screen time” results in overeating and lowered energy expenditure (calorie burning).   Have you ever watched a movie with a bowl of popcorn and consumed the entire bowl?  The TV is a powerful distraction when it comes to eating sensible amounts.  Additionally, sedentary behavior, or sit-down time, promotes a lower calorie burn  than moving (activity).   It’s simple:  TV and screens promote more sit-down time which results in less activity and overeating, leading to a higher potential for weight gain. 

Simple steps to curb your child’s TV/”screen time” appetite:

Remove the TV and other screens from the bedroom:  Children with TV’s in their bedroom watch a lot of TV!  The presence of a TV in a child’s bedroom is one of the leading indicators of excess “screen time”.  Removing the TV and other lurking “screens” will curtail the number of hours your child is inactive…watching TV, playing video games, and laying on the bed listening to the iPod.  

Limit all “screen time”:  The recommendation for reasonable “screen time” is 2 hours per day maximum; homework-oriented, computer time does not fall within these limitations.  Each family has unique dynamics and demands on their time—consider parameters around “screen time” limits that will be advantageous to your child, ie., the school week is focused on school work, projects, and educational endeavors.

Start early:  Limits on “screen time” should begin as early as 5 years of age.  This makes sense–toddlers and pre-schoolers are moving creatures–when we use the TV or “screens” to entertain them, we are training them to be sedentary!

Emphasize hands-on, active endeavors:  Cultivate an attitude of “let’s do” rather than “let’s see”.  Be an active parent–your children will mimic your active and your sedentary behaviors.

A little bit goes a long way:  Any modification and limit you can make around TV and “screen time” will be an improvement!  Be realistic with what you can tackle, without too much rebellion from your child.  Get “buy in” from your child–if children have other, fun things to do in lieu of “screen time”, they will be more accepting of the new “screen time” limits.

A reduction in “screen time” and TV viewing helps every member of the family and it provides an opportunity to get moving.  Help your child let their feet do the walking, not their fingers.  Help them have greater opportunities for movement and activity, rather than ample sit-down time.  Why Weight?

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