Help Your Child Grow Healthy and Strong (page 2)

— U.S. Department of Education
Updated on Jan 31, 2012

Eat Smart!

Sharing meals is an ideal way for the family to spend time together. Whether you're eating at home or eating out on the go, it's important to eat smart.

  • Be consistent. Establish a family meal routine, and set times for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Eat together whenever possible.
  • Take charge of the foods your children eat. When you serve a meal, your child can choose to eat it or not; but don't offer to substitute an unhealthy alternative when your child refuses to eat what you've served.
  • Restrict children's access to the refrigerator and snack cupboards.
  • Turn off the tv during meals, and limit kids' snacking when watching TV.
  • Serve a vegetable or fruit with every meal and at snack time.
  • Reward your kids with praise and fun activities rather than with food.
  • Involve your children in meal planning and food preparation. They are more likely to eat what they help to make.
  • While shopping and cooking, teach your children about the food groups and the importance of a balanced diet. Throughout the day, choose the types and amounts of foods you need from the five food groups.
  • Teach your children how to read food labels and use the 5%-20% guide to Daily Values to make better food choices. See for more information.
  • Limit foods that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars, and make sure to get enough fiber and calcium.
  • Use low-fat cooking methods such as baking, roasting and grilling, and choose healthy fats when you use them, such as olive or canola oils.
  • Serve water, low-fat or nonfat milk with and between meals. Only children under two years always need to drink whole milk.
  • Teach your children how to make wise food choices away from home-at school cafeterias, restaurants, and vending machines. Teach them to pay attention to both the quality and quantity of their food choices. More food is not always better for them; appropriate portion sizes need to be understood.

Get Moving!

Physical activity is good for children and adults. It strengthens muscles, bones and joints, and it gives children the opportunity to gain confidence while having fun. Children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Playing hopscotch, tossing a ball back and forth, and dancing are some good ways for your child to be active. Some children are good athletes, but all need many opportunities to be active, including but not limited to sports.

  • Be a physically active role model and have fun with your kids. Adults need at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity.
  • Walk with your child at every available opportunity- if possible to school or to the store on errands. Take a family walk after dinner instead of watching tv or playing computer games.
  • Plan active weekends. Include biking, hiking, skating, walking or playing ball. Take a trip to the park, skating rink, zoo, or swimming pool.
  • Offer to join your child in his/her favorite physical activity, or enroll your child in a group exercise program.
  • Include children in active chores such as dog walking, house cleaning, car washing, and yard work.
  • Limit inactive behavior such as television watching and computer time. Do physical activity with your kids during commercials, such as marching in place or stretching. This helps reinforce the importance of movement in your child's life.
  • Avoid using TV as a child sitter or pacifier. Offer active alternatives to screen time - jumping rope, playing hide-and-seek or running an errand. Children love when you are active with them and involve them in what you do.
  • Keep TVs out of children's rooms. Give your children gifts that encourage physical activity-active games, sporting equipment, or a Frisbee.
  • Take the President's Challenge as a family. You can track your individual physical activities together and earn awards for active lifestyles at
  • Talk with your schools about ways to incorporate noncompetitive physical activity during the day.
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