Today, about one in five school-aged children (ages 6–19) are obese and the U.S. percentage of children who are obese has more than tripled since the 1970s. September’s celebration of Fruit & Veggies More Matters® month is a great opportunity to offer parents quick tips on starting their children and teens on the right path to healthy living.
“Fruits and vegetables are low in calories, and provide important vitamins and minerals children and teens need to grow. Make eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day the norm for your household,” said Elaine Auld, CEO of the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE).
In addition to eating fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced diet, there are many other ways parents can help their children adopt healthy habits that can last a lifetime. SOPHE offers 10 tips to help:
Tip #1: Make eating fruits and vegetables easy.
Prepare grab-and-go packets of fruits and vegetables to take on busy days. Provide already packaged fruits or veggies like oranges, apples, grapes, or snap peas.
Tip #2: Model the behavior.
Children imitate adults, so be sure you are eating your share of both fresh and cooked produce. Aim for a total of 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day for a total of at least five servings.
Tip #3: Combine your child or teen’s favorite foods with fruits and vegetables.
If ordering pizza, get thin crust and use fruit and vegetable toppings – such as broccoli, pineapple, peppers, and more. If making burgers or tacos, try adding shaved carrots, sliced avocado, or zucchini.
Tip #4: Drink plenty of fluids.
Choose water, low-fat or nonfat milk, and low-calorie beverages. Ask for healthier alternatives such as 100% juice when eating out.
Tip #5: Eat together as a family.
Dinner time means family time. Turn off the electronics and check in with each other about life while enjoying a healthy meal.
Tip #6: Involve your child or teen in shopping and meal preparation.
Kids and teens are more likely to enjoy eating a healthy meal if they have helped to plan and prepare it.
Tip #7: Get outside and play an active game.
Whether you do geocaching, use a map on a smartphone to explore a neighborhood, have a family football game, or do some other fun activity, being active builds healthy bodies. Team sports, scouting, and school clubs also offer many opportunities for children and teens to be active and for the family to be involved.
Tip #8: Explore nature at a local park.
Take time to enjoy the wonders of nature by taking a hike or bike ride with your child at a local park. Many parks have regular tours where you can learn more about the plants and animals that enrich of our planet.
Tip #9: Set limits on screen time with electronics.
Tip #10: Keep up with checkups.
Make sure that kids and teens get to the doctor for regular checkups and vaccinations. Many health care providers now offer online tools and reminders to help you stay on track.
“SOPHE is part of a national grant-funded project to help teens, parents, and communities improve access to healthy food and decrease their chances of chronic diseases,” said Auld. “For example, we are working with local groups to modify how schools select and prepare food, increase availability of farmers’ markets and fresh produce, and add more options for physical activity.”
For more tips and information on what parents can use to encourage their teens to eat more fruits and vegetables daily, see www.partnering4health.org.
About the Project
This is part of a larger initiative by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s National Implementation and Dissemination for Chronic Disease Prevention to increase the nation’s quality of life and well-being by preventing and controlling chronic diseases, like diabetes and heart disease, through population-based strategies at the community level. Five national organizations, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, American Planning Association, Directors of Health Promotion and Education, National WIC Association and SOPHE, are implementing this three-year program in 94 communities across the country in 37 states with $28 million in funding provided by the CDC.
About the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE)
SOPHE is a nonprofit professional organization founded in 1950 to provide global leadership to the profession of health education and health promotion and to promote the health of society. SOPHE’s 4,000 international and chapter members work in various public and private organizations to advance health education theory and research, develop disease prevention and health promotion programs, and promote public policies conducive to health. For more information, visit www.sophe.org.