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5210 to Family Health

As part of its HAP Family Challenge, the Michigan health and medical insurance provider shares some smart, easy tips to get your kids on track

Zonya Foco, registered dietitian (left) shows Taima Ezzeddine how much fat is in one slice of meat pizza (for one slice of pepperoni and cheese pizza: about 16 grams, or 4 teaspoons!).

Building healthy habits can seem daunting – for parents and kids alike. One of Michigan's major insurance providers, Health Alliance Plan, is aiming to change that with its HAP Family Challenge. During a July 2011 event in Livonia, Michigan, it offered tips to 300 members in a fun workshop. But you don't have to be a member to benefit.

Your family can also learn how to build healthy habits that can last a lifetime by following 5210 from the American Academy of Pediatrics. To better explain this concept – and how to succeed – here are some tips from HAP's Zonya Foco, a registered dietitian from Onsted, Michigan; Paul Penney, a certified personal chef in southeast Michigan; and Ron and Mike Morelli, father-son contestants from The Biggest Loser Season 7 offer these tips.

5: Eat five fruits and vegetables every day

Eating fruits and vegetables can help prevent disease and help people of all ages maintain a healthy body weight. If your kids don't like veggies, Penney suggests roasting them in the oven. Cauliflower is his favorite roasted veggie – just drizzle some olive oil and your favorite seasonings, and roast until golden brown.

2: Limit screen time to two hours or less each day

"Our bodies made to move," says Foco. "When we sit around playing video games or watching television hour after hour, we're losing muscle mass and bones." Foco recommends turning off the TV and playing a board game, which will also help children to develop social skills. And let kids be in charge of their own clock and learn to recognize when they've maxed their screen time limit.

1: Get one hour of physical activity every day

"Research shows that physical activity not only makes kids healthier, but it also helps kids think better," Foco says. She recommends taking a few minutes to map out all parks within one hour of your home and make it your goal as a family to go to all of those parks for some healthy, fun physical activity.

0: Cut out the sweetened beverages

Sweetened beverages have been linked to higher risk for type 2 diabetes. Water should be your go-to drink for hydration. Foco says kids will love "healthy pop" – just mix unsweetened sparkling water and 100 percent fruit juice (half and half), and work toward more water and less juice over time.

More HAP Family Challenge tips:

  • Eat a salad before pizza to cut down on the number of slices you need to feel full.
  • Don't underestimate the importance of sitting down around the dinner table and eating as a family. Make the family meal a priority, and get ideas to get each person involved in creating family mealtime.
  • "You are in control of what your kids eat," says Morelli, a father who has struggled with weight his entire life – and is trying to be a positive role model for his sons. "Remember, young kids can't drive themselves to the fast food drive-thru or cook unhealthy meals for themselves." He recommends that parents learn how to read food labels – and don't always believe advertising and food packaging. Take the time to really look at the nutrition information when you purchase food.
  • Want to add a little competition into the mix? Pick up a pedometer for every member of your family and have a contest to see who gets the most steps every day.

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