Let's Move! Healthy Kids Healthy Families

July 2011

First Lady and advocate for childhood health and wellness Michelle Obama introduced the Let’s Move! program to eliminate childhood obesity and address the declining health of our children a concern shared by major health and childcare organizations. For example children are now three times more likely to be obese than they were 30 years ago which inevitably will lead to more health problems during their adult years. The Let’s Move! program is an initiative to aid families and communities to provide better nutrition to children all over the country. Below are some guidelines suggested by www.healthykidshealthyfuture.org and the Let’s Move! for ensuring the improvement of children’s health around the nation:

  • A checklist for childcare supervisors that evaluates children’s learning environments and physical activity levels in different age groups (which can be found at healthykidshealthyfuture.org)
  • Provide 1-2 hours of physical activity throughout the day including outside play when possible
  • No screen time for children under two years.  For children age two and older strive to limit screen time to no more than 30 minutes per week during child care and work with parents and caregivers to ensure children have no more than 1-2 hours of quality screen time per day as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Provide access to water during meals and throughout the day and do not serve sugary drinks.  For children age two and older serve low-fat (1%) or non-fat milk and no more than one 4-6 ounce serving of 100% juice per day
  • For mothers who want to continue breastfeeding provide their milk to their infants and welcome them to breastfeed during the child care day; and support all new parents in their decisions about infant feeding
  • In areas where children rely heavily on school cafeteria free breakfast and lunch programs encourage community centers such as parishes youth centers congregations and other organizations to host a Summer Food Service Program where members and families can gather to eat a free nutritious meal. Programs such as these (as well as the Healthier US School Challenge) are especially important both in schools during the school year and outside of school during vacations to guarantee that children are getting proper affordable nutrition
  • Avoid using food as a reward or punishment (terms such as “If you don’t clean your room you don’t get dessert” etc.). Offer alternatives for rewards such as reading a favorite book having extra outdoor playtime playing a favorite game or doing a special project such as arts and crafts
  • For an EXTRA early start to ensuring your child’s health and wellness be sure to eat healthy during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. The following website provides tools that enable pregnant or breastfeeding women with proper nutrition guidelines for happy and healthy children: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/mypyramidmoms/pyramidmoms_plan.aspx

To improve your entire family’s nutrition and eating behavior there are 5 key guidelines to abide by.  It is also important to have a discussion with the whole family about why these are important.

  • Serve fruits and vegetables at every meal
    • Children should get 5 servings of fruits and vegetables/day. Mixing vegetables into favorite dishes and drinking 100% fruit juice with no added sugar can greatly improve children’s eating habits
  • Reduce fat and sugar intake
    • Switch to low-fat or nonfat milk products: drink these along with water throughout the day rather than drinking sugary juices or soft drinks
    • Eat lean meats that are baked or grilled rather than fried
    • Instead of eating desserts such as ice cream with sugary toppings try low-fat or nonfat yogurts with low sugar granola or fruit mixed in. Limit treat consumption to special occasions
  • Deciding portion sizes
    • Children do not need as much food as adults use smaller plates for children with smaller portion sizes
    • Portion sizes should be about the size of the back of the consumer’s fist
    • Start with smaller portions you can always get seconds if still hungry by the end of the meal
    • Don’t force children to clean their plates if they are too full
  • Eat as a family
    • Eating as a family allows everyone to take time to slow down and enjoy their meal as well as each others company
  • Regular eating schedules help kids structure their eating habits

This post was written by our wonderful summer intern Simone Tartaglia a Dietetics major at SUNY Oneonta and edited by Geri.

Notes from Geri: Remember to keep a clean diet for everyone in the family but especially for growing children. Organic everything is recommended particularly for milk and animal products. If organic milk products cannot always be afforded or aren't available then go with nonfat ones as many toxins are stored in fat. Milk alternatives like nut and seed milks or enriched organic rice milk are also recommended. Regarding fruits and vegetables please refer to the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen from the Environment Working Group displayed below or available here. (Be mindful that there is always an environmental and human price to pay for food production for an entire planet.  Read more.)