Back in the dark ages – you know, before computer games, televisions, and microwavable pizza – parents didn’t worry about their children’s diet and exercise habits. That was before the modern world started supersizing our kids.
Boys and girls have similar dietary and exercise needs at this age. According to the USDA, average-sized eight-year-olds should eat about 1600 calories a day, regardless of gender. Experts recommend that boys and girls exercise for 30-60 minutes almost every day.
There are some differences. Here's what you need to know about getting your girl fit:
According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, 40% of 9 and 10 year-old girls have already attempted to lose weight.
The Centers for Disease Control report that girls ages 4-19 have higher levels of bad cholesterol than boys, putting them at greater risk for future heart disease.
By age 20, women have acquired 98% of their total skeletal mass, so bone-building exercise is a must to prevent osteoporosis. That may be a challenge, as girls express less enthusiasm for athletics than boys. The trick is to start now: the Women’s Sports Foundation predicts that if your daughter doesn’t participate in sports by age 10, there is only a 10% chance she will at age 25. What’s holding them back? Girls have fewer athletic role models than boys, are often inhibited by poor body image, and may receive less encouragement from their friends and families than boys do. If your daughter’s a couch potato, spark her enthusiasm by taking her to female sporting events, talking-up female athletes like Mia Hamm and Venus Williams, and trying new sports together.
Of course, boys need to eat a healthy diet and stay moving, too. Here's how:
If your son’s drawn to the siren song of video games and soda pop, limit screen time and stock your fridge with healthy choices.
Boys tend to judge each other on physical size and athletic prowess, so a kid who’s small for his age, or relatively unathletic can feel intimidated on the playing field. If that’s the case with your son, don't keep pushing pee-wee football. Find an activity he can feel good about, be it a martial arts class or free time at the park.
The essential tip from experts for boys and girls is not to overdo any one thing; variety really is the spice of life.
www.GoGirl.com to find ways to inspire your daughter
www.aap.org to check your child’s BMI (body mass index)
www.mypyramid.gov to see dietary recommendations based on your child’s age and weight