good news is, parents can help their children maintain a healthy weight by
encouraging physical activity and healthful eating habits.
Maintain a Healthy weight--increase physical activity
Children, like adults, gain weight when they eat more calories than they use
during daily activities. But unlike adults, growing children should not restrict
calories to achieve a healthy weight. Restricting calories and nutrients can
retard or stunt growth and impair learning. Instead, children should focus on
increasing physical activity and eating appropriate amounts of a variety of
Physical activity--health benefits galore
Physical activity provides important health benefits, including weight
management, increased strength and coordination, and stress reduction. Physical
activity also builds self-confidence by helping children feel good about
themselves. Regular physical activity, continued throughout life, can help
reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Physical fitness--fun for everyone
To get children off the couch and onto the playing field, parents can involve
the whole family in physical activity. After all, every family member can
benefit from daily physical activity. If your family has not been active,
introduce activity gradually. For example, you can start by taking relaxing
family walks after dinner.
Parents can encourage children to engage in safe free-play after school with
friends, or join school or community athletic teams. Help children select
activities that focus on fun since they are more likely to be active if the
experience is enjoyable.
Other ways to increase your children's physical activity:
Healthful eating tastes good--make it fun
Parents can "turn kids on" to healthful eating by
emphasizing fun and family involvement. Let children help with food shopping and
preparation--it's always more fun to eat what you have helped select and
prepare. Keep food varied and interesting, providing children with an array of
fruits and vegetables of different colors, textures, shapes, and sizes, such as
kiwis, oranges, red peppers, and broccoli.
Look to the Nutrition Facts information on food products to help make
healthful choices. If your child selects a high-fat food, offer lower-fat
choices later in the day or over the next few days. Remember, all foods can be
part of a healthful eating pattern.
Choose foods from the five food groups
Nutrition experts recommend eating food from each of these five food groups
daily to ensure a balanced high-carbohydrate, low-fat eating pattern:
6-11 servings of Grains (Breads, Cereals, Rice, and Pasta); one serving
= 1 slice bread, 3/4 cup dry cereal, or 1/2 cup rice or pasta
2-3 servings of Fruits; one serving = 1 apple, 1/2 cup canned or chopped
fruit, or 3/4 cup juice
3-5 servings of Vegetables; one serving = 1 cup raw leafy vegetables or
1/2 cup cooked or chopped raw vegetables
2-3 servings of Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese; one serving = 1 cup milk or yogurt
or 1 1/2 ounces cheese
2-3 servings of Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, and Eggs; one serving =
2-3 ounces of meat, poultry or fish, 1/2 cup cooked beans, or 1 egg
Grains, fruits, and vegetables supply the body with carbohydrates, the body's
preferred source of energy for physical activity. A teaspoon of sugar sprinkled
onto cereals and fruits, such as oatmeal or grapefruit, can enhance the taste of
these healthful foods that children might not otherwise try.
To get your
children to eat more vegetables, try adding green pepper and fresh tomato slices
to pizza and serving carrot sticks with their favorite sandwich. For meat and
dairy choices, select lean meats, poultry without skin, and low-fat dairy
Be a role model
Children learn from their parents. If you engage in daily physical
activity and enjoy a variety of healthful foods, your children are more likely
to follow suit. Encouraging physical activity and healthful eating habits during
childhood helps build these habits for a lifetime.
For more information
The American Dietetic Association/National Center for Nutrition
and Dietetics Consumer Nutrition Hot Line.
or food and nutrition information or for a referral
to a registered dietitian in your area, call 800/366-1655. For customized
answers to your food and nutrition questions by a registered dietitian, call
900/CALL-AN-RD (900/225-5267). The cost of the call will be $1.95 for the first
minute and $.95 for each additional minute.
The Sugar Association, Inc.
For free leaflets on children's nutrition and fitness, such as "Make
Snacking a Healthy Habit" and "Breakfast on the Run," mail a
self-addressed, stamped envelope to The Sugar Association, 1101 15th Street, NW,
Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005.
Nutrition Action Plans
American Dietetic Nutrition Fact Sheet
For an article about how to have family meals "Family
Meals Nourish Body And Soul" Family
Meals Nourish Body And Soul"
Click here to receive a free quarterly government update on
Dietary Supplements/Food Labeling Electronic
Nutrition Food Pictures
Children Nutrition Topics Index