5-2-1-0: Raise healthy kids by the numbers

8/16/2016 by Dr. Natalie Gentile

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Making healthy food and activity choices allows children to grow, develop and maintain a healthy weight so they can play, learn and be at their best. But with all the fad diets and media about what we should and shouldn't do when it comes to leading a healthy life, it can be overwhelming and confusing. 

With just four numbers to remember, the 5-2-1-0 program provides parents with a simple guide and tips for their kids. Let's start with "5", which stand for five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. 

How much is a "serving"?

For kids, it's the amount of fruit or vegetables that fits in the palm of their hand.

For adults, typical fruit and vegetable servings are: 

  • A whole fruit the size of a tennis ball
  • 1/2 cup of chopped fruits or veggies
  • 1 cup of raw, leafy greens
  • 1/4 cup of dried fruit

What are some fun ways to eat more fruits and vegetables as a family? 

  • Be colorful. Make a rainbow out of your plate, challenging each other to find as many different colors of fresh produce as you can.
  • Get creative. Pinterest and other craft websites have fun ideas to "play" with your food, encouraging kids to try different types of fruits and vegetables that they otherwise would not normally try.
  • Grow homegrown. Plant a garden, then use the fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables you grow to try new recipes.
  • Stay local. Check out the local farmers market or roadside stand and pick a new fruit or vegetable each week that your family has never tried before.
  • Plan ahead: Plan a week's worth of meals as a family on Sunday so you're less likely to eat fast food or go out to dinner. 
  • Set an example. Your kids are watching you, and they'll be more likely to adopt healthy habits if you lead by example with your own.
  • Juice it up. Make smoothies or juices that are packed full of fresh fruits and vegetables. For example, blend 1 pear, 1 banana, 1 cup of spinach, a couple drops of honey, and 1 cup of almond milk for a delicious green smoothie! Get in the pink by blending 1 cup of fresh or frozen strawberries, 1 cup of skim milk and 1 cup of ice. 
  • Come together. Eat your meals sitting down as a family, with the television off and the cell phones tucked away

For more fun ways to get at least five services of fruits and vegetables a day, explore these links:

Dr. Natalie Gentile is a third-year Family Medicine resident in Employee and Community Health (ECH). She is also a certified Power Vinyasa yoga instructor and group fitness instructor. Her primary research interests include childhood obesity and physician/resident wellness.