How can I be sure my child is getting a healthy diet and exercising enough?

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It’s difficult sometimes to know if your child is eating a healthy diet or is exercising enough, and we hear a lot of concern these days about childhood obesity, and this is a frequent concern that a lot of parents have as well. As pediatricians, we feel like our job is to help people understand how to live a balanced life. There’s no one formula for, “This is the healthy diet for children.” But there are some easy recommendations that you can follow. When I say easy, I mean more clear, this sometimes are not actually literally easy.

You want to reduce the sugar content to as close to, to as little as you can on a daily basis, and sugar sneaks into a lot of kids favorite foods, you know, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you know, things like that, you know, are often very high in sugar, so you really want to keep a close eye on the added sugar in your child’s diet, and reduce that as much as possible. Sugary snacks and treats are a fun part of childhood, and I wouldn’t, you know, tell somebody to never do them, but you want to do them occasionally, make them rare treats, not something that the child is eating a few or even several times a day or week.

In addition to reducing the sugar intake, I would strongly encourage people to increase the fruit and vegetable servings that their child is getting. I would strongly encourage to steer away from a juice product for fruit and more actual eating fruit, and the reason is because that changes how the fruit sugar is absorbed, you know, when you eat the whole fruit, the sugar is bound up with the fiber and that will actually delay and slow the sugar release from it. Whereas, if you’re drinking straight juice, it’s very similar to the body as consuming a sugary drink.

So increasing fruits and vegetables, steering clear of a lot of juice, you know, using minimal juice, if any, are important as well. Watching your fast food intake and processed foods, these are often high in sugars and fats that are, you know, growing bodies don’t need too much of, even though they seem like they are metabolizing well, even a child with normal weight can be metabolically unhealthy. As far as exercise is concerned, kids exercise is play, so active play is the cornerstone of exercise as a child. Currently, guidelines recommend one-hour of active play minimum, so get outside, romp around, have a good time.

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