Q: How do I know if my children are eating healthy?
A: Nutrition is the cornerstone of a healthy life. From birth, nutrition impacts a child's growth and development. Of course, there are barriers parents face when trying to provide a healthy diet, including limited time, money or knowledge. A conversation with your pediatrician is an excellent starting point to learn more about nutrition for your child.
Most of us are probably familiar with the food pyramid or plate method, both of which are designed to demonstrate what kinds and quantities of foods we should eat at mealtimes. But I also recommend the 5-3-2-1-none plan, which is another simple way to think about key factors in overall health: what you eat and drink, what you watch and how much you exercise.
The 5-3-2-1-none approach suggests the following:
5: Choose at least five servings of fruit and vegetables every day. Fruits and vegetables provide the vitamins and minerals our bodies need to function optimally. This is especially important for children as they're growing, and their brain and body is developing to maturity.
3: Eat three structured meals a day. Creating a routine to sit down and eat together is a great way to consume a more healthy, balanced diet. When you prepare foods at home rather than pick up fast food, you're more likely to choose foods that are lower in fat and calories and higher in the vitamins, minerals and nutrients our bodies need to grow strong and healthy.
2: No more than two hours of screen time, including computer, video games or time on the phone.
1: One hour of physical activity every day. Enjoy any activity that makes you move! No matter what you or your kids like to do, find something that gets your heart pumping.
None: Limit sugar-sweetened drinks to "almost none." This includes soft drinks and other fruit-flavored beverages. If you do serve juice, make sure it's 100% juice with no added sugar. Remember, plain water is just what the body needs!
Nutrition is the foundation of your overall well-being and health — what you put in your body matters. Focus on creating healthy lifestyle choices early in life to prevent disease and promote wellness from a young age.
— Sarah Mian Trimiew, M.D., CHI Memorial Pediatric Diagnostic Associates; Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society member