Help your kids learn healthy habits with the 5-2-1-0 rule

March 19, 2015 Providence Health Team

Parents are busy. Between work, meetings and driving the Mom-taxi, life can get a little hectic. With the ease of fast food and the prevalence of video games, it’s easy to forget about our kid’s nutrition and exercise habits. The 5-2-1-0 rule is a simple way to keep track of your child’s health habits – and who doesn’t love simple? 

5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day 

Eat more fruit!Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and minerals necessary for your child’s growth and immune system. Kids who eat five or more servings a day are significantly less likely to be overweight or become obese as adults than kids who eat less than three servings per day. The benefits continue into adulthood: a diet rich in fruits and vegetables also lowers the risk for cancer, diabetes and heart disease. 

Fruits and vegetable are naturally low in calories and fat, so serve them with every meal. Replace sugary snacks with a piece of fresh fruit. Have raw vegetables available for a crunchy alternative to chips. 

2 hours or less of screen time per day 

Smartphones, tablets and computers are a part of everyday life. However, kids who spend more than two hours a day staring at a screen are twice as likely to be obese. Too much screen time is also linked to sleep and behavioral problems. Limit screen time (including television) to two hours or less per day. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids under age 2 have no screen time. 

1 hour or more of physical activity per day 

Play outside more!Encourage your kids be active. Kids need about one hour per day of physical activity for good health. Physical activity reduces stress, increases energy and promotes growth of strong muscles and bones. Physically active kids sleep better, too. Play outside with your child, go for a bike ride or play catch in the front yard. 

0 sugar sweetened drinks 

Sports drinks, sodas and juices are packed with sugar and calories. These sugary drinks cause weight gain and cavities. Diet drinks are full of artificial sweeteners, so stick to water or low-fat milk. Pack a thermos with water in your child’s lunch or encourage her to purchase milk in the school cafeteria. 

For more information

Teaching your kids to make healthy choices is more important than ever. Give them a head start at good health with the 5-2-1-0 rule. And, remember, it makes sense for adults, too. So, show your kids how easy – and fun – eating right, exercising and limiting screen time can be by following the guidelines yourself. To learn more, talk to your child’s primary care provider or a registered dietitian.

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