Your Child’s Health

How can I help my child form healthy habits?

As a parent or caregiver, you play a big part in shaping children’s eating and drinking habits. When you make it a habit to consume foods and beverages that are low in added sugars, saturated fat, and salt and are high in fiber, the children you care for may learn to like these foods as well. If a child you are caring for does not like a new food right away, don’t be upset. Children often need to see a new food many times before they will try it.

Be a role model. As a parent or caregiver, you also have an effect on children’s physical activity. You do not need to be an expert at any activity. Just get up, move, and show children how much fun being active can be. They may grow to like it too. You can set a good example by going for a walk or riding a bike instead of watching TV, playing a video game, or surfing the internet. Find an activity that you enjoy and can do together.

Talk about being healthy. As you learn more about how to improve your health, take the time to talk to your children about how a certain food or physical activity may help them. For example, when going for a walk, bring your children with you and let them pick the route. Discuss how walking helps you feel better and is a fun way to spend time together.

Make sure your child gets enough sleep. Getting enough sleep can improve your child’s mental, emotional, and physical health. Not getting enough sleep may lead to many health issues, including obesity. Find out how many sleep hours experts recommend for your child depending on his or her age.

What should my child eat and drink?

Just like adults, children need to consume foods and beverages that are packed with nutrients. Also, like adults, children should consume just enough calories to fuel their daily living and activities.

Suggested items include

  • fruits, vegetables, unsalted nuts and seeds (please make sure your child can tolerate these foods and isn’t allergic to them), and whole grains
  • fat-free or low-fat dairy products, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified nondairy beverages
  • a variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), nuts, seeds, and soy products

How can I help my child eat better?

Use less fat, salt, and sugar. Here are some ideas to help you and your child follow a healthy eating plan

  • Cook with fewer solid fats. Use olive or canola oil instead of butter or margarine. Bake or roast foods instead of frying. You can get a crunchy texture with “oven-frying” recipes that involve little or no oil.
  • Choose and prepare foods with less salt. Keep the salt shaker off the table. Have cut-up fruits and vegetables on hand for snacks instead of salty snacks like chips or crackers.
  • Limit the amount of sugar your child eats. Choose hot or cold cereals with no added sugar or low sugar.
  • Fill half of your child’s plate with fruits and vegetables.
  • Learn about age-appropriate portion sizes and how to avoid oversized portions.

Find out what percentage of your child’s meals should be vegetables and/or fruit. Learn more at

How does physical activity help my child?

Experts suggest that preschool-age children (ages 3 through 5 years) should be physically active throughout the day to help them grow and develop. As a parent or caregiver, you play a big role in helping kids get up and get moving.

If you are caring for pre-schoolers, try to make sure they get about 3 hours of physical activities each day. Those activities could be light, moderate, or vigorous in intensity. If you are caring for school-age children (ages 6 through 17 years), try to get them to do at least 1 hour of physical activity each day. Experts suggest activities that are moderately or vigorously intense. Bicycling, jumping rope, and playing basketball or football are some ways for children to be active.

Reduce inactive screen time. Sitting for hours at a time, while using computers, hand-held devices, music players, or TVs, may reduce your child’s active playtime.

Paediatricians suggest limiting the time children use digital media outside of homework time. Between ages 2 and 5, allow your children no more than 1 hour of screen time. For children ages 6 and older, set consistent limits on media time.