by Eric Ball, M.D.
As the New Year begins, many Americans resolve to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle. With obesity rates at an all-time high and rising, we encourage you to make a resolution to improve the health of your children as well. We at Southern Orange County Pediatric Associates practice a program called the “5-2-1-0 rule”. 5-2-1-0 is four simple steps that you can take as a family to improve the health of your children.
What is 5-2-1-0?
5: Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, every day.
2: Limit total “screen time” for children to less than 2 hours per day, and none for children under the age of two years.
1: Get at least one hour per day of exercise or active play.
0: Serve zero sugar-sweetened beverages.
5 Fruits and Vegetables
Try to serve your children at least five servings per day of fruits and vegetables. This means that children should receive these items at every meal and at snack time as well. Fresh is best, but frozen or canned vegetables are a convenient alternative. Make sure you eat the same vegetables that you serve your children; they are more likely to eat them if you do as well. Do not worry if they initially do not eat the good food you provide. As long as you continue to provide healthy foods (and do not offer them unhealthy alternatives if they refuse) most children will eventually start to eat their fruits and vegetables. Keep you home stocked with healthy snacks. Nutrition starts at the grocery store and children will eat what is available to them. If their only choices for snacks are fruits and vegetables, they will eat them. Also, juice and vitamin supplements are not an adequate substitute for food. They lack fiber and many of the other nutrients contained in fruits and vegetables. There is no substitute for the real thing!
Limit Screen Time
We strongly encourage you to limit overall “screen time” to less than two hours per day. Screen time consists of television, video games, computer time, and texting (and other smart phone usage). There have been numerous scientific studies proving a correlation between increased screen time and both obesity and poor school performance. Children should not have televisions or computers in their bedrooms. We also encourage you to avoid all screen time for children under two years old. Television viewing (and even background television) in infants and toddlers, even “educational” videos, has been associated with delayed speech development.
One Hour of Exercise and Active Play
Living in Southern California, we are fortunate that our climate allows for the ability to have year-round outside play. Make sure your children get out of the house and get at least one hour of active play or exercise. Exercise for children can be in the form of organized sports or just going to the park and running around with friends. Unfortunately, the once-weekly physical education that children receive at school now does not provide sufficient activity for most children. Supplement this with exercise at home.
Zero Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
Sodas, juice, and sport drinks are a major source of empty calories for children. Children should drink water primarily with some skim or 1% milk daily. Children who consume a lot of calories in the form of sugary beverages often do not eat well because they fill up on their drinks. Juice and so-called sport drinks should be avoided as they are also largely sugared water and often have as many calories as a can of soda. It is much better for a child to have an apple than apple juice.
We here at Southern Orange County Pediatric Associates hope that you have a happy and healthy 2011! Use this year to make positive changes for both you and your children. For more information on the 5-2-1-0 rule please visit the website http://www.beahealthyhero.org/ or talk to your child’s medical provider.
The contents of this web site are provided as an informational tool. This is not intended to replace medical advice or care administered by a healthcare professional. Common sense should always be used when referencing this site. If, at any time, you feel your child is experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.