In Canada, over 30% of children and youth are considered to be overweight or obese. The majority of children who suffer from being overweight are mainly due to improper diet and/or an inactive lifestyle. In 2011, the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CMHS) measured Canadian’s physical activity by using an accelerometer to measure children’s daily activities. The results stated that only 7% of young people between the ages of five and seventeen met the daily recommended amount of physical activity. The guideline also suggests that young kids and teenagers should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. Research has strongly shown that childhood obesity may result in a number of serious medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol as they grow older. In addition, most obese children or youth do not outgrow their weight problem and that can have a significant impact to their physical and psychological well-being.
There is an easy to remember formula that has been developed by Nemours Health and Prevention Services (NHPS) that promotes children’s health and teaches parents the basics of a healthy lifestyle for their children. The formula is called 5-2-1-Almost None! This formula is easy to remember and you can be as creative as you want with each of these steps.
• 5: Eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily
• 2: Limit screen time to no more than 2 hours a day
• 1: Get 1 or more hours of physical activity every day
• Almost None: Drink almost no sugary beverages
5 – Lots of fruits and vegetables
Understandably it can be a constant battle for parents to have their kids consume vegetables. Here are some ways to get more servings in your kids’ diet:
– Ask kids to help with grocery shopping and choose different vegetables and fruits for meal time
– If your kids are old enough, ask them to prepare the meal with you. Get them to wash, chop or put the veggies in the oven for you. They will feel a lot more excited when their dish is ready
– Incorporate vegetables and fruits in every meal. You can make strawberry pancakes, spinach pasta or even banana oatmeal muffins
– In the summer time, you can make fruits smoothies or popsicles
– In the winter time, simply put everything together in a pot (or slowcooker) and make a vegetable soup
2 – Limit Screen Time
– Don’t use TV time as a bribe – when kids think of TV as a reward, they will want it more
– Have kids engage in projects such as crafts, family play or work in the garden
– Turn off the TV for meal times – promote family discussion time
1 – Get Active
– Schedule a family outing one day per week. It can be a walk around the neighborhood, soccer game or a visit to a local museum
– Sign them up for sports team and camps. Learn a new sport every season
– Play outside as much as possible
– Designate a specific area (commonly the basement) for active play. All the toys will be stored there but keep the place organized to prevent any accidents
Almost None – Say no to sugary drinks
Each can of coke contains 40 grams of sugar – that’s about 11 teaspoons! Even store bought “healthy drinks” like orange juice have 25g of sugar. Not only do sugary drinks have a strong correlation to childhood obesity, it can cause cavities – and we all know how much kids love their dentists!
– Encourage your kids to drink water only. If they really don’t like the taste of water, dip a chamomile tea bag for a few seconds so it has a mild taste
– Everyone appreciates a cup of freshly squeezed juice – you can get your kids to help you prep
– Reserve sugary drinks for special occasions only
Now that you understand the formula, try to incorporate it into your family lifestyle. Most importantly, it’s important to lead by example and start making healthy choices for yourself and your family!