A 2013 study from the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said that many kids are not getting enough exercise or eating healthy. The study surveyed 10,000 kids ages 11-16 and found that only half get enough exercise, a recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day, and only one-third have a healthy diet. Here are some tips for getting your kids moving and eating right.

Planning activities for your child

The most important thing to do is plan a physical activity for your child. Make a decision the day before, or a few days before, that you will be doing something physical with the whole family.

Some other tips include:

  • Have several options available based on energy level and age appropriateness
    • For example, a 7 or 8 year old cannot weight lift or participate in a 5-mile jog, but he could go for a hike or a 1-mile jog
  • Set a time frame for the activity
  • Follow everyone’s mood. If the family seems ready to go right after a heavy meal, it’s time to seize the day and play!

Healthy eating habits

The study also suggested that many kids have unhealthy diets; here are some tips to make meals more nutritious:

  • Eat balanced meals:
    • 3-5 servings of vegetables
    • 2-4 servings of fruit
    • 6-11 servings of bread, cereal, or pasta
    • 2-3 servings of protein like lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, or egg
    • 2-3 servings of dairy
  • When cooking for your child, try to bake, steam or broil instead of frying
  • Decrease your child’s sugar intake. Try giving milk or water instead of juice or soda
  • Eat fruits or vegetables for a snack
  • Use fat-free or low-fat mayo, sour cream and salad dressings
  • Decrease the use of butter and heavy gravies
  • Eat more lean chicken, fish and beans for protein


Nailah Coleman Nailah Coleman, MD, FAAP, is a sports medicine pediatrician in the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine. She is board certified in both pediatrics and sports medicine. During her training, she worked in four different hospital environments and had the opportunity to see children at different life stages and assess their growth and wellness.

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