As a parent, there is nothing more important than the health of your child. The best thing you can do for your child’s health is to help them form healthy habits. The 5-2-1-0 program sets clear goals to help parents achieve this. 5-2-1-0 stands for 5 or more fruits and vegetables, 2 hours or less of screen time, 1 hour or more of physical activity, and 0 sugary drinks (more water). Those four numbers may be catchy and easy to remember, but any parent knows that achieving those tasks with their children is easier said than done. We’ve compiled some facts and tips for each task to try and help your family strive for a 5-2-1-0 lifestyle.
Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
First of all, a serving or fruits or vegetables is about the size of a tennis ball. And while fresh fruits and veggies are a great perk of warmer weather, there’s no reason not to have fruits and vegetables year-round. Frozen and canned produce are good choices, too. Did you know that frozen or canned produce is just as good for you? It’s true. Their nutrients are preserved in the canning and freezing process. However, not all are alike. Choose fruit packed in their natural juice, not in syrup. Choose canned vegetables that are salt-free. You can season them later if you like. Or if unsalted isn’t available, just be sure to rinse them before preparing.
Frozen or canned fruits and vegetables are also great because they cost less than fresh produce, are always in season, and provide lots of options for the picky eaters in your home. Plus, they come pre-washed and often pre-cut, so throw them on the table as a side dish for any meal. Vegetables can also easily be added into chili, soups or stews, pasta, or casseroles. Fruits can be added to smoothies, yogurt, fruit salad, or cereal.
Spend 2 hours or less of recreational time on screens each day.
Screen time includes time spent on TVs, computers, gaming consoles, tablets, and smartphones. It’s important to limit the use of ALL screens. How do you do this when screens seem to rule the day? First, set some basic limits. Some examples of rules are: no TV or computer until your homework (or a certain household chore) is done or no screens during meals. By setting these types of rules as a family, and adhering to them yourself, you’ll be setting a great example for your kids. Some more direct tactics might be trying a timer, and eliminating the TV or computer from the room where your child sleeps.
When you are trying to avoid screens with your kids, it’s important to provide other engaging activities for them to do. Puzzles, books, magazines, or board and card games are great alternatives to TVs, video games, or smart phones. They are also easy activities to do together with your child. Other ideas are to draw pictures, turn on some music and dance, go for walks, play ball, or go your town library or museum. All are engaging activities that will help them reduce their daily screen time.
Get at least 1 hour of physical activity every day.
Physical activity is not only healthy for your kids, it is also free and can be quite fun. What counts as physical activity? Well, there are different types: moderate physical activity can be described as doing any activity that makes you breathe hard, like fast walking, hiking, or dancing; vigorous physical exercise involves activities that make you sweat, like running, aerobics, or playing basketball. Physical activity makes you and your kiddos feel good. It is healthy for your heart and lungs, plus it makes you stronger and more flexible.
The best tip to ensuring your kids get the physical activity they need is to simply schedule an activity for the family each day. Some easy things you can do with your family are: taking a walk or bike ride together, playing with your pet in the yard, playing a game of tag, dancing, or jumping rope. There are also a few things you can just incorporate into your daily life, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator and parking at the far end of the parking lot. You can also choose toys and games that promote physical activity. If you are nervous to start, know that making gradual changes to increase your activity level are okay.
Aim for zero sugary drinks each day. Substitute water instead.
The best drinks for young children – and for kids of all ages – are water and milk. Water is essential for good health and milk is loaded with important nutrients, especially calcium. The alternatives like juice, pop, and sports drinks simply have too much sugar! Even 100% juice has a significant amount of sugar. (100% orange juice as 22 grams of sugar per 8 ounce glass.) You can help curb your child’s sugar intake by limiting their drink choices at home. Promote water and milk as the drinks of choice by also trying to drink them while around your children. You can also liven water up with fresh lemon, lime, or orange wedges for some natural flavor.
Another important thing you can do is to simply educate yourself on what exactly is in the drinks we see on grocery and convenience store shelves today. Sports drinks are flavored with sugar and market their minerals and electrolytes. But most people don’t need them! They are only recommended when you are doing intense physical activity for at least an hour or longer. They are not for everyday drinking or even to quench your thirst after routine physical activity. Energy drinks such as Monster, Red Bull, Rockstar, etc., contain caffeine, sugar, and other vitamins and minerals. But again, most people get these nutrients from our food and do not need them. These drinks are not the same as sports drinks and are never recommended for children.
Raising healthy and happy children is a long-term goal. It’s a love and commitment for which every parent strives. We hope this article gives you a few ideas and tips to help you kick-start your ambition. Remember to set goals that are attainable. Start small and work to extend your goals over time. All efforts will be beneficial for your family. If you need help or more ideas, ask your pediatrician at your next visit. You can also visit the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative website for more information and tips.
Karen Hospodar Scott, MD, PhD
The Department of Pediatrics provides care for patients 18 years of age and younger, including newborns, infants, young children, and adolescents. This department offers services including diagnosis and treatment of infectious disease, chronic illness, and physical problems associated with children, including well child services such as growth and development counseling, periodic check-ups and dietary assistance to maintain good health. Special problems including weight control, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and others, are also treated. Call 563-584-3440 (East Campus) or 563-584-4440 (West Campus) to schedule an appointment.