One Formula for a Healthy Lifestyle

One Formula for a Healthy Lifestyle

How to Get the Facts Straight

There's a lot of advice out there about helping families eat better, exercise more, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. So much advice, in fact, that sometimes the real message gets lost in all the hype.

Fortunately, Nemours Health and Prevention Services (NHPS), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting children's health, has made it easy for you to get the facts straight. Delaware-based NHPS, like KidsHealth, is part of Nemours, one of the nation's largest health systems devoted to improving the health of children. Its formula — called 5-2-1-Almost None — helps parents and kids remember the basics of a healthy lifestyle.

What's involved?

The guidelines in the 5-2-1-Almost None formula have been shown to help people prevent obesity, maintain a healthy weight, and improve their overall well-being.

Read on to learn how you can incorporate some of these guidelines into your family's lifestyle.

Lots of Fruits and Vegetables

We were all told as kids to "Eat your veggies!" And now we're telling our kids the same. And why not? Most fruits and vegetables are full of nutrients and naturally low in calories and fat, making them a healthy choice. They're also full of water and fiber, which makes them filling.

5-2-1-Almost None recommends 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a serving size equals ½ cup (about a small handful) of chopped fruit or vegetables or a full cup of leafy vegetables, like spinach.

Here are some ways to get more servings in your kids' diet:

Limit Screen Time

Screen time includes television, video games, and recreational computer use. While some screen time can be an excellent way to educate and entertain kids, too much is associated with an increased risk of becoming overweight.

5-2-1-Almost None recommends no more than 2 hours of screen time each day. For children less than 2 years of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no screen time at all.

Next time your older kids complain "there's nothing to do" but watch TV, offer these alternatives:

Get Active

Most kids don't spend enough time moving their bodies. At least 1 hour of physical activity is recommended every day for kids 2 years and older.

Regular physical activity helps kids to have strong and healthy hearts, bones, and muscles, and to achieve or maintain a healthy weight. Those who are active may have an increased ability to learn, feel more energetic, and sleep better.

Here's how to get the blood flowing faster and the heart pumping harder:

Avoid Sugary Drinks

Besides causing cavities, sugary drinks are one of the main culprits behind the childhood obesity epidemic. Since the 1970s, soft drink consumption has more than doubled among teens and kids in the U.S. So, it's no surprise that the number of overweight and obese children has also increased.

But what's considered a "sugary drink"? You may be surprised to know that besides soda, juice drinks, lemonades, sweetened iced teas, sports drinks, and coffee drinks are also loaded with sweeteners and offer little nutritional value.

It's best to give your kids water, fat-free milk, 1% milk (for kids ages 2 and older), or 100% fruit juice. But drinking large amounts of fruit juice (more than 12 oz./day) is associated with obesity, so 100% fruit juice should be limited to one serving per day for children 1-6 years old, and no more than two servings for kids ages 7-18. As an alternative, add flavor to water by throwing in a few lemon or lime slices. Your kids will enjoy a refreshing beverage that's good for them, too.

Here are more tips for getting your kids off the sugar-packed soft drinks:

So try to make 5-2-1-Almost None part of your family's life, and share the formula with your kids. It can help prepare them to make good decisions on their own about the foods they want to eat — and that can lead to a lifetime of healthier choices.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: July 2012

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2015 KidsHealth® All rights reserved.
Images provided by iStock, Getty Images, Corbis, Veer, Science Photo Library, Science Source Images, Shutterstock, and

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Related Resources
Web SiteAcademy of Nutrition and Dietetics Offering nutrition information, resources, and access to registered dietitians.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.
Web SiteNemours Health and Prevention Services (NHPS) NHPS works with families and community partners to help kids grow up healthy, with a focus on childhood obesity prevention and emotional and behavioral health during early childhood.
Web provides practical information on how to follow the U.S. government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It includes resources and tools to help families lead healthier lives.
OrganizationAmerican Council on Exercise (ACE) ACE promotes active, healthy lifestyles by setting certification and education standards for fitness instructors and through ongoing public education about the importance of exercise.
OrganizationU.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) The USDA works to enhance the quality of life for people by supporting the production of agriculture.
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