Everyone has a goal weight that they feel is right for them, but what is a healthy weight? It is the weight you and your child achieve when you eat moderate portions of healthy food and are physically active most days of the week.
To help families achieve this goal, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends some very specific strategies. While they are intended to help children and adolescents, these ideas are good for everyone.
Let’s look at the recommendations:
- Consume nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The serving size of course will vary by age. For a 1-year-old, it is one tablespoon per serving of fruit or vegetable, while for an adult, it is half a cup. Add one serving a day each week so you work toward the goal gradually.
- Limit intake of sweet beverages. This includes sweet tea, sports drinks, sodas and even juice.
- Limit screen time to two hours or less per day for children over age 2, and no screen time for those under age 2. This includes TV, computers and cell phones. If it is safe, encourage more outdoor play. Children outside move more than children playing inside.
- Be moderately to vigorously active a total of 60 minutes daily. The 60 minutes can be broken up into short segments throughout the day.
- Eat breakfast every day. This increases the metabolic rate so you burn more calories. Plus it helps prevent overeating later in the day. If someone is not hungry for breakfast, they often have eaten too much the night before.
- Limit eating out, especially at fast food restaurants. Restaurant food tends to be high in calories, fat and sodium and low in vegetables and fruits. Since these meals are low in fiber, they don’t satisfy your hunger as well.
- Eat meals together as a family. Typically family meals are more nutritious than meals eaten alone or on the run.
- Control portion sizes. Especially look at the number of servings in snack foods. Often one package has more than one serving even though you or your child may consume the whole thing at one time.
- Consume higher calcium foods. Milk and other dairy foods seem to curb appetite.
- Eat a higher fiber diet. Besides eating the nine vegetables and fruits, choose mainly whole grains.
- If you are expecting a baby, plan to breast feed for at least six months if possible. It will help the child to achieve a healthy weight and provide you with some extra calories as well. Don’t add solid foods like cereal before the child is six months of age.
- Limit energy dense foods, especially those high in sugar and/fat and low in protein, vitamins and minerals.
For more information on healthy weights for children, see the University of Georgia Extension publication at spock.fcs.uga.edu/ext/pubs/fdns/FDNS-E-66a.pdf.
(Connie Crawley is a nutrition and health specialist with University of Georgia Extension.)