Survey: Kids lack exercise, healthful foods By Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY
Federal guidelines recommend that children get an hour or more of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity a day.
Most kids don't come close to getting enough exercise daily and don't eat enough fruits and vegetables: 62% of 1,630 parents with children ages 5 to 10 say their kids eat junk food one to four days a week.
Only 14% of parents say their kids eat at least five fruits and vegetables a day.
These results shed light on the reasons for the childhood obesity epidemic. About a third of children in the USA are overweight, which puts them at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and other health problems.
Even though 89% of parents rate themselves good or excellent in providing a healthy home environment, most say they face serious roadblocks to providing healthy lifestyles for their kids, citing too many competing activities — especially social networks, computer games, TV and cellphones.
Taking a stroll
How often parents with kids, ages 5 to 10, say they go for a walk with their children: *Note: Numbers do not add to 100% due to rounding.
YMCA survey of 1,630 parents
"Parents have really good intentions, but they are busy and have a lot of distractions so sometimes they make the easy choice but not the best choice," says Lynne Vaughan, senior vice president of the YMCA. The group sponsored the survey to celebrate its Healthy Kids Day events Saturday.
Federal guidelines recommend that children get an hour or more of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity a day, but 74% of parents surveyed say their kids do not get that much. Only 16% say their kids are playing outside daily.
Although two-thirds of parents say they make time to play with their children every day, the most frequent leisure activities are sedentary, such as playing card or board games or watching TV.
In fact, 46% say their kids watch TV for at least two hours five or more days a week.
Instead, Vaughan says families should walk, dance or play active games inside. That way, healthy choices become family traditions.
In many cases, parents need to clean up their own nutrition acts.
I never see kids who have better eating habits than their parents, says Keith Ayoob, a registered dietitian at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. He suggests adopting several rules that apply to the entire family, such as limiting screen time to two hours or less a day; keeping all sugar-sweetened beverages out of the house; prohibiting the use of cellphones, laptops or TV at the dinner table.
Ayoob encourages parents to build on healthful fruits and vegetables their children already love. If they like snap peas, baby carrots or apples, offer them daily. Another easy change is to always offer fruit, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat dairy for snacks, says Elizabeth Ward, a registered dietitian in Boston and mother of three. That way kids will get more of the foods they are missing out on.
Another easy change is to always offer fruit, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat dairy for snacks, says Elizabeth Ward, a registered dietitian in Boston and mother of three. That way kids will get more of the foods they are missing out on.