“Blast Off” to a healthy summer

Spring has blessed us with some warm days, gentle rains and beautiful colors to enjoy. The days are slipping by and summer activities will be here before we know it. What are your plans for summer? Hopefully the calendar has been marked for a few days of vacation or family fun days. Having something to look forward to is important for adults and children. The planning, saving and anticipation is part of the journey, as is the feeling of fulfillment after the event is over.

As a parent, trying to keep a routine is important. It provides structure and helps children and adults be productive. Brainstorm with your family, what kind of chores can be done through the day or in the evening? Who wants to do what? What can we do when the work is done? The short term things that need daily and weekly attention are a great way to get the kids involved and moving. It is also a great way to improve family communication and relationships, being together doesn’t have to be all fun, working is a wonderful way to share your values and listen to your children.

There are many ways to keep our families moving towards a healthy lifestyle, but I’d like to share with you the 5-4-3-2-1-0 Blast Off to Good Health message that the Child Nutrition and Fitness Coalition has chosen to help promote changes that we all can make.
5 servings of fruits and vegetables. Planning your snacks is a great way to get more servings of tasty fruits and vegetables that we need for the vitamins and minerals they provide. Try a new recipe for a smoothie or freeze some grapes for a quick cool snack on a warm summer day. Keep fresh items accessible either on the counter or in bags ready to grab from the refrigerator. If it’s easy, the children (and you) will be more likely to take it when they are looking for a snack.
4 glasses of water– so many times children are thirsty but don’t differentiate the feeling of hunger and thirst. Offer water first, then offer the next scheduled snack. Try drinking a glass of water before your meals too, it helps get our stomach and taste buds ready for what’s to follow.
3 Servings of dairy products or an easy way to remember it is 24 ounces in 24 hours. Low fat cheese, yogurt, and even an occasional bowl of ice cream can all add to the calcium bank our bodies need. Strong bones are needed for children to grow to their full potential. Look for ways to add calcium to your diet if your child is not a strong milk drinker. Try adding dry milk to your favorite recipes to boost the nutritional content or keep cheese chunks in a bag to grab for a quick snack.
2 hours (or less) of screen time which includes the computer, hand held games as well as the TV. When we sit we are not using many calories or keeping our bodies very active. Try making an effort to select your favorite shows and avoid from keeping the TV on all the time. Many times, we stay just to see ”what else is on?’ Teach our children to be selective and enforce the two hour rule and see how much time you may have to play games, or spend family time together?
1 hour (or more) of physical activity. We know that children need to be moving for at least 60 minutes a day, but most of us as adults would benefit from this amount of activity as well. Think of it as building healthy habits for life, if exercise and good eating habits are started when they are young, that will be the standard or expectation they will build on throughout their life.
0 (or minimize) sugared foods and beverages, look for ways to get the most nutrition for your calories and you’ll find some things that we might need to put on the list for only once is a while. We won’t ever expect to say never have a cookie, or piece of birthday cake or even our favorite candy bar because elimination from our diets doesn’t mean that we can be moderate in our intake. It does mean that we need to be careful and only enjoy those items once in a while and teach our children to do the same. A candy bar with every trip to the store is not a healthy habit to start. Think about how many trips to the store they may make in their lifetime. The behavior becomes part of the routine that may continue throughout their life.
Check out the 5aday.com web site for many tips and recipes using fresh fruits and vegetables and watch for activities in your community that can help you and your family incorporate more activity in your daily life. Summer is just around the corner, plan today to enjoy a healthy future.

Melinda Hill, CFCS, CFLE, is an Extension Educator with Family and Consumer Sciences at the OSU Extension, Wayne County, Ohio.

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