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The Formula for Raising Healthy Kids

Posted on Jan 27, 2020

While the beginning of a new year is a great time to recommit to healthy living practices, many families over-commit to lofty goals, big changes or unrealistic resolutions. The newest trend is not necessarily the healthiest or most sustainable option, and these fads make it easy to lose sight that having healthy kids is actually rooted in science and backed by research.

On this week’s On Call for All Kids, Megan Armstrong, a registered dietitian, and Mallory Carteaux, an exercise physiologist, with the Fit4Allkids program at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, recommend Florida families start with the basics, like the simple 9-5-2-1-0 guidelines. Each number represents a healthy behavior that families can aim to attain this year. Here are the guidelines, and a tip for getting there this year!

9 Hours of Sleep

How do I keep my child’s sleep consistent?

It’s hard, especially during times when the kids aren’t in school, like the holiday break, spring break, and the summertime, to keep kids on a consistent sleep schedule, but going to bed and waking up at roughly the same times all year long goes a long way in establishing healthy sleep patterns. Sleep is a very important time for young bodies and minds to grow and recover, so deprivation at this age can be detrimental. Keeping screens out of the bedroom will help with quality sleep, as will avoiding caffeine and other stimulants in the evenings.

5 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables

What if my child doesn’t like vegetables?

It can take 15-20 exposures to a new food before a child accepts it. Even if a child refuses to eat a new food, continue to offer it, try different cooking methods and model healthy behaviors.

2 Hours or Less of Screen Time

My child uses a computer for school work, does that count?

It is important to remember that this recommendation refers to recreational screen time, so any computer, tablet or device used for educational purposes doesn’t count. Encourage your kids to put down the devices at least 30 minutes before they go to sleep, and take technology breaks throughout the day in order to move more, step away from the digital world and take a few deep breaths.

1 Hour of Physical Activity

What if my child isn’t motivated to exercise?

Leading by example is a great way to get kids to try new things. If they can see their parents modeling the healthy lifestyle, they may be more likely to take part as well. Also, give your children the freedom to choose what activities they would like to try. If the kids enjoy it, it won’t be so hard to get them to participate!

0 Sugar Sweetened Beverages

What are some healthy beverage options?

Water, water and water. I know it can sound boring, but there are plenty of fun ways to make water more exciting like fruit and/or herb infusions. Many of the beverage options out there, even those marketed as healthy choices, are loaded with sugar. The average sports drink has well over the recommended grams of sugar per day. Even choices like fruit juice and chocolate milk might provide additional nutrients, but they also pack in the sugar. It’s just better to stick with unsweetened beverages like white milk and water.

Remember, it’s better to stick with these basics than to try the newest craze, but also remember, you don’t have to tackle all of these at once. If your family is not meeting these recommendations, choose one or two to focus on at a time. When you start to develop those healthy behaviors into habits, it can provide encouragement for the rest of the year.

On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital medical experts. Visit each Monday for the latest report.

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