Preventive care through healthy nutrition is far superior to treatment of nutrition-based problems such as childhood obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

To help prevent these serious medical conditions, you should eat well and exercise daily. Balance and moderation are key to maintaing a healthy weight. Keeping physically fit and active are important as well.

A good way to begin such healthy practices is to use the 5-2-1-0 method, which helps to simplify our understanding of the body’s daily needs.

5-2-1-0 represents: 5 or more servings of fruit and veggies, 2 hours or less of recreational screen time [computer and television], 1 hour or more of physical activity, and 0 sugary drinks (replace with more water and low-fat/fat-free milk).

Fruit, vegetables and whole grains should compose the bulk of your diet. The total recommended servings are found on the chart below based upon age and gender.

Age Fruits (cups) Vegetables (cups) Grains (ounces) Meats and Beans (ounces) Milk (cups) Oils (tsp)
2 – 3 1 2 3 2 2 3
4 – 8 1 – 1½ 4 – 5 3 – 4 2 4
9 – 13 (females) 1 ½ 2 5 5 3 5
9 – 13 (males) 1 ½ 6 5 3 5
14 – 18 (females) 1 ½ 2 ½ 6 5 3 5
14 – 18 (males) 2 3 7 6 3 6

In addition to balance among food groups, consuming the correct number of calories is also very important. Recommended daily calories by age and gender are:

Age Calories*
2 – 3 1000
4 – 8 1200-1400
9 – 13 (females) 1600
9 – 13 (males) 1800
14 – 18 (females) 1800
14 – 18 (males) 2200

*For active children, calorie requirements may be greater

Encourage children to participate in choice and preparation of the foods they eat. Also, encourage feedback regarding those choices made. Here are some tips from the Committed to Kids Weight Loss Program for adding more fruits and vegetables to your family’s diet:

  1. Use more fruit and vegetables as snacks. Serve raw vegetables with a reduced fat or fat-free ranch dip, and fruit with low-fat yogurt dip to make them more appealing.
  2. Add fruit (raisins, banana chunks, sliced strawberries) to cereal, oatmeal and yogurt.
  3. Keep raisins or grapes in the freezer for a quick frozen snack.
  4. Add extra vegetables to soup.
  5. Increase acceptance of salads with reduced-fat cheese and bacon bits.
  6. Toss fresh spinach leaves into a salad.
  7. Make a yogurt shake with fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt and fat-free milk. This is a great alternative to breakfast if you are eating on the run.
  8. Keep packaged frozen fruit in the freezer for last minute use in muffins, breads and shakes.
  9. Stir-fry vegetables with a little low-sodium soy sauce for a different flavor. Try vegetables raw, in casseroles and cooked different ways to increase appeal.
  10. Melt a small amount of 2 percent reduced-fat cheese over cooked vegetables to increase acceptance.
  11. Add extra canned tomatoes or tomato paste to soups and sauces.
  12. Mix unsweetened fruit juice with carbonated water for a natural soda.
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