Parents can improve their children’s health and fitness greatly by remembering just five basic steps, according to Babs Benson, manager of the Healthy You weight management program at The Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk, Va. Even making one or two of the changes from Healthy You’s “Countdown to Family Fitness: 5-4-3-2-1” program will help, Benson said:
• Five: Serve at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. It’s easier than it sounds: Half a cup of veggies or half a medium-sized banana, for example, counts as a serving. Keep sliced fruits and vegetables within easy reach of children, especially at times they’re looking for a snack.
• Four: Give kids four servings of water a day. Avoid soda and sugary juices — they’re very high in calories and sugar — give them their own water bottles to fill up and keep a pitcher of water on the kitchen table.
• Three: Aim for three daily servings of low-fat dairy products, which are rich in the calcium a child’s growing body needs. Examples of one serving are an 8 oz. glass of milk or yogurt and 1 1/2 ounces of cheese.
• Two: Limit a child’s total daily “screen time” to two hours or less (the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time at all for kids younger than 2). That includes watching television, being on a computer and playing video games.
• One: Encourage children to get at least an hour of physical activity every day. Plan active family outings, sign up for team or individual sports and, if your neighborhood is safe, get kids to go outside and exercise by playing or riding a bike.