Be a family food and physical activity HERO

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Poor diet and lack of physical activity are primary contributors to obesity among children. One in five children enter kindergarten overweight or obese, which makes early childhood a critically important time for developing habitual healthy eating and physical activity behaviors. Parents and caregivers play a major role in supporting these healthy behaviors.

Children’s diet and physical activity behaviors are strongly influenced by other family members. Thus establishing family-level policies and practices are important to ensure optimal child-level health.

The good news is that families don’t need to become marathon-running vegetarians. Research has shown that a few adjustments to the family-home environment and to family-level behaviors can have a significant, positive effect on children’s risk for becoming overweight or obese.

Start with these simple adjustments and you can be a Family Healthy Eating and Physical Activity HERO (Help Energy Regulation Occur)!

  • Remove televisions and computers from children’s bedrooms
  • Limit screen time (TV, computer, tablet, smart phones) to less than 1 hour per day for children 2-4 years, and less than 2 hours per day for children ages 5-11 years
  • Provide opportunities for children to play actively and verbally express value for children being active, regardless of your own activity level
  • Carve out time (even 10 minutes at a time) for family physical activity each day (e.g. walk, dance, bike to school)
  • Make sure your child eats a healthy breakfast (whole grain toast, fruit, yogurt), and when possible eat breakfast together
  • Set a routine for bedtime and make sure children get adequate sleep
    • 1–3 years old: 12 to 14 hours a night
    • 3–5 years old: 11 to 13 hours a night
    • 5–12 years old: 10 to 11 hours a night
    • Adolescents: > 8.5 hours a night

These simple changes can go a long way to support child and family health. Below are two great resources to help families eat healthfully and be more physically active:

Food Hero: www.foodhero.org

Let’s Move – Active Families: http://www.letsmove.gov/active-families

Katherine B. Gunter, PhD
Assistant Professor
College of Public Health and Human Sciences
School of Biological & Population Health Sciences
Exercise and Sport Science Program
Extension Family & Community Health


This is posted in conjunction with Oregon Parenting Education Week 2013

The Hallie Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families promotes the development and well being of children, youth and families by generating, translating and sharing research-based knowledge.

The Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative (OPEC) supports delivery of high quality parenting education programs and collaborative efforts to strengthen regional parenting education systems.

OPEC is a partnership of four of Oregon’s largest foundations (The Oregon Community Foundation, The Ford Family Foundation, The Meyer Memorial Trust and The Collins Foundation) and Oregon State University.