UK Suggests Holiday Health Tips for Kids

Contact: Amy Gilliam

 

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“One of the best ways to get a child to make a healthy choice is by setting a good example.”

- Dr. Joan Griffith
assistant professor of pediatrics

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 6, 2004) -- With the holidays just around the corner, many children are faced with the temptation of sweets and foods that don’t always represent the best nutritional choices.

But University of Kentucky experts in nutrition say making the right nutritional and fitness choices should still be a priority, particularly during the holiday season.
Childhood obesity is reaching epidemic proportions in America, according to Maria G. Boosalis, associate professor of clinical nutrition, UK College of Health Sciences. Parents can play a vital role in helping children make healthy selections.

“As a parent, it’s important to model healthy eating behaviors,” Boosalis says. “For example, if the parent never eats fruits and vegetables, it will be very difficult to encourage and/or expect their child do so.”
Experts suggest these simple guidelines for a family’s healthy eating habits:

  • Plan family meals together and use the Food Guide Pyramid as your guide to healthy eating behaviors.
  • Educate children as to where foods fit into the Food Guide Pyramid, what constitutes a “serving,” and the appropriate number of servings they should eat from each food group.
  • Incorporate children into meal preparation; make it fun for them.
  • Sit down and eat together.
  • Increase use of whole grain products such as 100 percent whole wheat bread, whole wheat pastas, and 100 percent brown rice.
  • Choose lean protein sources, such as chicken, turkey and fish and select low-fat dairy products, including milk and yogurt.

“Encourage your kids to eat a ‘rainbow of different colors,’ especially fruits and vegetables,” Boosalis says. “Make foods into fun sizes and shapes and let kids help with simple preparation. Think of kids incorporating calcium into their diets as putting ‘money in the bank.’ They are putting calcium into their bone bank for future use as well as for their current bone health.”

Another key element is exercise. Children should be physically active 20 to 30 minutes a day, five days a week. “One of the best ways to get a child to make a healthy choice is by setting a good example,” says Dr. Joan Griffith, assistant professor of pediatrics, UK College of Medicine.

Experts suggest implementing an exercise program that will:

  • Encourage social development and parent/child interaction by exercising with a family member or friend and promote a sense of accomplishment, boosting self-esteem.
  • Decrease risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and sleep apnea.
  • Reduce or maintain body weight, while helping build healthy muscles, bones and joints.
  • Reduce depression and anxiety.

If a child has not been active, start out slowly. That will help in sticking with the routine that will last. It also is important to pick something children like to do and incorporate that into the exercise. For instance, try raking leaves with the child. Then make a pile and jump into them. Another consideration when starting an exercise program with children is variation. One day it could be fun to go for a family walk, and the next day encourage riding a bike.

Safety also is an important factor. Encourage your child to warm up and do some stretching exercises together. For example, take a time out if your child looks nauseated, dizzy, faint, or short of breath.

For more information about holiday nutrition or exercise, visit www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/.


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