Healthy Kids through the New Year
by Beth Cline
Usually reserved for topics like losing weight, working out
more and stressing less, resolutions take advantage of the
opportunity to start the new year with a clean slate. The
right resolutions can be a great way to get (or keep) a
healthy lifestyle on track.
The first step for children and parents in resolving to get
healthier is choosing safe, appropriate resolutions. Lisa
Dorfman MS, RD, LMHC, Sports Nutritionist-University of
Miami Athletic Department/Adjunct Professor and National
Media Spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association
suggests keeping it simple. “One of the best resolutions for
kids is simply to sweat for at least 30 minutes a day, doing
anything they like to do best!”
Resolutions could include:
• Give children new responsibilities. Help them resolve to
walk the family dog for at least thirty minutes a day or
help with weekly household chores like vacuuming, washing
the car or raking leaves.
• Resolve as a family to walk more. Get each family member a
pedometer and see who can log the most steps in a day.
Parents can help children boost those numbers by parking a
little further away from store entrances or taking the
stairs instead of the elevator.
• Help children limit their TV or computer time. Suggest
they try to stick to no more than a few hours a week on
either. Rebecca Berman RD, M Ed, nutritionist for Sodexho
School Division (K-12) reminds parents, “The less time your
child spends in passive activities, the more physically
active they are likely to become.” Instead, trade each half
hour of TV watching for a half hour of activity.
• Don’t limit resolutions to just activity. Resolve to try a
new fruit or vegetable each week, or have kids choose (or
prepare, if they are older) one meal a week.
• Choose a specific goal and end date. For example, children
can train to run in the October Marine Corps Marathon
Healthy Kids Fun Run. By starting early, children have
plenty of time to build up to the one-mile run. For older
children, try training for a local 5K event.
After children and parents have worked together to choose
appropriate resolutions for healthier living, its time to
stick with them. This often proves to be the most difficult
step for children and adults alike. Dorfman suggests
offering a system of rewards “like collecting frequent flyer
miles, awards can be granted at various points.” For
example, give children a star a day for keeping their
resolution. Five stars could equal movie tickets; ten stars,
new athletic gear; 20 stars, a day at an amusement park,
Denise Austin, fitness expert and spokesperson for the Idaho
Potato Commission, advises parents, “One way to get moving
and to stick with resolutions is to get fit as a family.”
Here are a few ideas Austin recommends to get started:
• Plan an active daytime getaway — sit down with children
and map out an exciting hiking or biking trip.
• Pick active activities. Try bowling, skating, or walking
around a museum for great indoor ideas. Try seasonal
activities outside- like sledding in the winter, flying a
kite in the spring, swimming in the summer or playing in
leaves in the fall.
• Challenge the whole family to a friendly game. Pick a
favorite one whether it's basketball, volleyball, or even
Twister! Or learn a new game together!
As with any resolution, parents and children should be aware
of a few pitfalls to avoid. Dorfman warns against punishing
children when they can’t or don’t attain their goals and to
keep rewards exciting and fun. Berman offers her advice,
“Remember that each of child is wired differently. Every
child has their own timetable and limits, and pushing them
hard can backfire. Don’t criticize your child if they don’t
reach a particular goal. Offer gentle encouragement and
support, and reassess the goal to determine if it is
realistic for your child.”
Austin adds, “Agree as a family to not set unrealistic or
overly restrictive goals, especially with food. I think that
most foods can be enjoyed in moderation. This is why I don’t
like diets that advocate eliminating major food groups. For
instance, I think active people need the energy that comes
from carbohydrates. I gave up carbs for one day and all I
did was miss my favorite foods and feel sluggish. I believe
a healthy diet featuring a wide array of foods, including
carbs like those found in Idaho Potatoes, is the best way to
go. Add exercise and the whole family is on their way to a
healthier and a happier New Year!”
Berman offers some final advice to parents and children
making resolution for a healthier 2006. “Maintain a positive
attitude toward the changes in lifestyle your children (and
the family) are taking. Keep things fun and avoid acting
like a drill sergeant. This is not a contest, but rather an
experience that will help your child establish healthy
habits for life.”
Articles in the Healthy Kids Series are presented by the
Marine Corps Marathon Healthy Kids Fun held annually in
October. Visit www.marinemarathon.com. Beth Cline is the
Public Relations Coordinator for the Marine Corps Marathon.
No federal or Marine Corps endorsement implied.