Four Simple Steps to Better Health

Content brought to you by Henry Ford Health System

When it comes to getting healthy, it's easy to let your fitness and food goals slip when you're busy.

"Parents are so busy now, that they don't feel like they have time to make lifestyle changes," says Krupal Shah, M.D., pediatrician at the Henry Ford Medical Center-Ford Road in Dearborn.

But it doesn't take as much time as you think to achieve a healthier lifestyle. In fact, Henry Ford Health System has adopted the 5-2-1-0 program, a nutritional and fitness initiative endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as a way to remember simple, effective steps to get families healthier.

As part of this program, doctors recommended that kids eat five fruits and vegetables every day, have two hours or less of screen time daily, one hour or more of physical activity daily and zero sugar-added beverages.

For parents looking to adopt these ideas, Dr. Shah says that small changes are the easiest ones to maintain.

"Introduce one type of fruit or vegetable into every meal," Dr. Shah says.

You can allow the child to choose which berry or cut fruit they want to add to cereal for breakfast.

"Since you are trying to do something new, it's OK to make those fruit and vegetables extra fun," Dr. Shah says. "Go ahead and add a small amount of peanut butter or Nutella to that apple or banana, if they will agree to eat the whole fruit."

With more fruits and vegetables in your family's diet, it's time to move on to No. 2: limiting screen time.

Kids are constantly on screens – from televisions, to computers, to tablets/pads, to phones – and it's important to reduce this.

"Start a family activity or game where you play together," Dr. Shah suggests. Let your children take turns choosing the activity. Parents can encourage physical activity with rewards. Make screen time an earned privilege, like an allowance, to encourage games that involve moving and activity.

This helps get kids more active, which increases stamina, assists with weight loss and more. Kids should have one hour of moderate activity daily or 20 minutes of vigorous activity three times a day.

Finally, for restricting sugar-added beverages, Dr. Shah doesn't suggest going cold turkey. "If you cut it out entirely, it may be a little mean," he says. Instead, treat it like a dessert for your child – something that they don't have every day.

Dr. Shah also suggests diluting juice with water or a sugar-free alternative. "Juices are missing some good elements of a fruit, including the fiber and protein. If kids want a glass of juice, make sure they are also eating pieces of fruit in that meal or snack," Dr. Shah says. Kids rarely overeat fruit, since it is filling. However, they can inadvertently drink too many calories through juices, which have high sugar content and don't trigger that feeling of being "full."

These four steps are easy for any busy family – and they help combat chronic diseases associated with poor diet and lack of exercise at any age.

"All of these lifestyle changes really do show impressive results if you can find a way to implement them," Dr. Shah says. "Small changes add up to big results over time."

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Krupal Shah or another Henry Ford physician, log on to henryford.com or call 800-HENRYFORD (800-436-7936).

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