All parents want their kids to be healthy, but sometimes getting there is a difficult and confusing journey. With junk food, sugar, tech screens and the prevalence of a sedentary lifestyle for most Americans, it can seem like everything is out to trample our kids’ health and well-being. That’s why researchers at Penn State University formulated an easy-to-remember initiative built on taking back our kids’ health: 5-2-1-0.
As a nationwide youth initiative, 5-2-1-0 aims at making it easy to help kids make great choices, pointing them toward a healthy lifestyle as they grow and mature. The gist of this program is to challenge kids to consume five fruits and vegetables daily, limit screen time usage to two hours or less, engage in at least one hour of active play and consume zero sugar-sweetened beverages.
Healthy365, a branch of Hancock Regional Hospital, focuses on mental and physical health and well-being and partnered with leadership in Hancock County to create a community-wide 5-2-1-0 initiative. Right now, this curriculum for second-graders is aimed at rewarding them with fun prizes for completing the program. Kids who are within this age range are just beginning to learn how to develop healthy habits, which is why it’s a great time to show them more about making healthy lifestyle choices using this easy-to-remember format.
How can I model 5-2-1-0 for my kids?
The problem is that kids are at the mercy of their parents and guardians during this time of their lives. Kids can’t do the grocery shopping and, many times, can’t quite control their impulse to consume addicting things like sugar. They need to have adults who can be role models in how they live and the choices they make and who will help them, then, make healthy choices, too.
5 servings of fruits and veggies
One way to help you child fulfill their 5-2-1-0 goal is to buy healthy snacks or have healthy options on hand for them when they get hungry. Fruits and veggies are loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals. If your child finds it difficult to choose carrots over chips, add some hummus or salad dressing for a dip.
2 hours of screen time or less
Screen time is to avoid, especially during winter months or on rainy days when kids are home from school. When they inevitably tell you they’re bored, provide them a list of activities from which to choose. The choice aspect will be fun for them and helpful for you after they learn to entertain themselves without the help of television shows and video games.
1 hour of physical exercise
Physical activity keeps your kids mentally fit and physically healthy. Just 1 hour a day can make a huge difference in a child’s life, boosting mood, improving focus and inciting calm. Joining a sport is an obvious way to achieve this goal, but that may not be for everyone. Help your child find a physical activity that really lights them up and brings happiness to their lives. Whether that’s fencing, dance, weight-lifting, karate or hiking in the woods, your child will reap the benefits of more consistent physical exercise.
0 sugar-sweetened beverages
The most common question asked under “0 sugar” is whether juice counts. Although some juices don’t contain added sugar, they also don’t contain any fiber or other bulky parts of the fruit. Therefore, the body digests juice just like a giant sugar bomb. Help your child make healthy choices like milk or water. If they want something fun and different, try sparkling water with a squeeze of fresh lemon, lime or orange.
Helping our kids make healthy choices now has a huge impact on how they will grow and flourish as adults. Kids who learn about the importance of diet and exercise now will also understand the importance of these healthy lifestyle choices later. If you or your child’s school would like to know more about the 5-2-1-0 initiative, head to the Healthy365 website!