Parents have been running up to me with lots of questions about what they need to know about the new White House obesity initiative called “Let’s Move.”  Well, let me see if I can give you the skinny on this important program.

“Let’s Move” is a coordinated and comprehensive initiative to prevent children from becoming overweight and obese.  It is endorsed by the White House and organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, and focuses on four areas:

  • healthier schools
  • access to affordable and healthy foods 
  • increased physical activity levels for kids
  • empowering families to make healthy choices

As a parent, you can be a part of all four of these. The “Let’s Move” program calls for doctors to measure your child’s body mass index with every check-up so you can be informed as to whether their weight is trending up, down, or staying the same.  At those visits, we also plan to share with you “Let’s Move” ideas for healthy, active living characterized by good nutrition and physical activity.

For example, we plan to offer your child the “5-2-1-0” prescription that recommends your child:

  • eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables every day
  • limit screen time to 2 hours or less per day
  • engage in 1 hour or more of physical activity
  • consume 0 sugar-sweetened drinks – using water and low-fat milk instead.

Armed with the information given to you by his or her doctor, you can now turn that prescription into reality by offering your child healthy choices and fun activities based on the 5-2-1-0 prescription. For example, you can take your child with you to have them pick out the 5 fruits and vegetables they want to eat (thus empowering them to make healthy choices), or invite them to cook those vegetables with you since children are more apt to try foods they have helped prepare.

As to the 2 hours or less per day of TV, computer or video game-time try doing activities together as a family instead, such as playing board games or better yet, go outside for a walk or to play catch, and increase physical activity for your child and for you too.  Reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks can be easily accomplished if you as a parent avoid these drinks as well, and substitute water or low-fat milk instead. 

The “Let’s Move” campaign is not about dieting.  It’s about doing away with too much unhealthy food, too much sitting, too much screen time, and instead enjoying healthy food and family, slowing down a bit and balancing our lives.  In fact, a recent study suggested that if a preschooler simply eats healthy meals with other family members, gets at least 10 hours of sleep a night, and limits screen time to less than 2 hours a day, they can reduce their risk of obesity by more than 40%.   

Hopefully, tips like this will move you and your family in the right direction when it comes to being healthy by participating in the “”Let’s Move” campaign and in doing so reducing the risk of any family members becoming overweight.

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital at the University of Vermont Medical Center and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and on WCAX-TV Channel 3. Visit the First with Kids video archives at http://www.uvmhealth.org/firstwithkids

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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