Count to five for a healthier lifestyle

Count to five for a healthier lifestyle

Helping your child learn healthy habits that last a lifetime could be as easy as counting to five.

The 5-2-1-0 healthy habit rule encourages healthy behaviors while limiting those that could lead to weight gain and associated problems.

“Most weight gain comes from unhealthy habits, which can lead to type 2 diabetes, hypertension, PCOS, anxiety, depression, sleep problems and many more,” says Dr. Veena Gonuguntla, a pediatrician and pediatric obesity provider with Aurora Children’s Medical Group. “We need to look at how to establish more healthy habits instead.”

Five – The first number refers to the number of servings of fruits and vegetables that children should eat every day. If you have a picky eater at home, it’s important to remember that you can start slow and work your way up to five servings a day.

Two – Parents should limit their children’s entertainment time on screens to two hours or less a day.

“This is the hardest rule because electronics are at our fingertips. We use them for school and for work,” Dr. Gonuguntla says. “Start by setting a goal as a family. If you are spending a lot of time on electronics and social media, you can start by halving the amount and work your way down to less than two hours.”

It’s OK for children to be bored, as it improves their creativity and imagination. But encourage building, art and other similar activities instead of internet usage.

One – Children should get at least one hour of exercise per day. For toddlers, this can be active play time. While sweating aerobic exercise is more appropriate for teenagers. Moderate physical activity like taking a walk, playing outside or riding a bike are all great ways to stay active.

Zero – Drink zero sugary drinks a day. Instead of soda, kids should drink water and low-fat milk as a healthier alternative. Parents should be aware that fruit juice is also categorized as a sugary drink. For example, rather than drinking apple juice, your child should instead eat an apple.

“You don’t have to follow every rule every day. Make it as many days as possible,” Dr. Gonuguntla says. “You can have occasional treat days, where you’re on your phone more than recommended time or drink a can of soda but try to limit this as much as possible.”

While these rules apply to kids of all ages and can help adults, too, it’s important to start healthy habits early. The period between ages three and six is crucial for setting a child up for success later in life.

“For younger children, this can be life changing,” Dr. Gonuguntla says. “The earlier you introduce healthier habits, the better chance they have to maintain them throughout their lives.”

Are you trying to find a doctor? Look here if you live in Illinois. Look here if you live in Wisconsin. 

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About the Author

Katie Dahlstrom
Katie Dahlstrom

Katie Dahlstrom, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health. A storyteller at her core, she is a former newspaper reporter and spent nearly five years working as a public relations professional for Chicago’s commuter rail agency, Metra. Outside of work, she enjoys birding, photography and spending time with her husband and dog.