As the new school year begins, it’s a great time to refocus on the fitness and nutrition opportunities that your family is providing for your children. And with the help of the Hancock County 5210 Initiative, part of a larger national youth program developed by Penn State, there are four benchmarks to help establish good habits that will create a positive wellness journey for years to come. Make these daily goals a family priority throughout the coming school year. 

Consume 5 fruits and vegetables a day

The first recommendation of the 5210 Initiative is to consume five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. This may seem daunting at first, but for the typical child, a serving is about the size of the palm of their hand. You can try using a dip like dressing or hummus to make veggies more appealing, and serve them raw or lightly steamed since the texture may be better for kids (and they’ll lose less nutrients that way). 

Keeping pre-sliced (and washed) fruits and vegetables accessible for your kids’ snacks makes it easier and more fun for them to choose for themselves. You could also try making fruit smoothies together, or sneak in some greens for an extra veggie boost. Remember that it can take dozens of tries before your kiddo starts to enjoy a new food, so be sure to continue offering different foods in different ways. 

Limit recreational screen time to 2 hours or less per day

Screen time is considered anytime that a child is using a television, computer, gaming console, tablet or smartphone for watching shows or playing recreational games. Before age five, it is recommended that young children have no more than one hour of screen time per day, and preferably only for educational shows or activities. 

Once you have a school-aged child, the 5210 Initiative recommends no more than two hours of screen time per day. Studies show that screen time can be associated with frequent snacking, lower reading scores and problems with a child’s attention span. 

Engage in at least 1 hour of active play

Obesity is among the most pressing health concerns in Hancock County, and a healthy and active life begins from a young age. Encouraging at least an hour of physical activity each day can dramatically improve your child’s behavior, make them stronger and more flexible, and benefits attention span as well. 

The best part is, there are many ways to maintain an active lifestyle. Regular physical activity doesn’t just have to mean playing an organized sport. Hancock County is full of amazing local parks, green spaces and trails to get out into nature and enjoy a family walk or bike ride. Healthy365, and Hancock Health at large, are committed to a “population health” approach, meaning that we focus on the health of our community as a whole. 

Drink 0 sugar-sweetened beverages

The final recommendation to improve physical wellness for your child is to drink 0 beverages sweetened by sugar. This obviously means limiting things like soda and energy drinks, but also includes fruit juice. Reducing or eliminating your child’s sugar intake (especially via drinks) is helpful because sugar is addictive and doesn’t do any favors to a growing child’s nutrition. 

Better choices for children’s drinks are low-fat milk or water. If your child doesn’t like the taste of plain water, you can try adding fruit for some additional natural flavor. Going back to our fruit intake goal, smoothies can be a great option for drinks as well. Encourage frequent hydration by getting them a fun water bottle they enjoy keeping with them, or using straws that have a wacky shape or pattern. 

If you have more questions about your family’s nutrition, you can work with our Healthy365 Support Navigators to get connected to local resources for assistance. Call us today at 317-468-4231!