As a dietitian, I am regularly asked for quick and easy tips on eating and how to live a healthier lifestyle. One of my favorites is the “5-2-1-Almost None” guideline. This refers to “5″ fruits and vegetables a day, “2″ hours or less of screen time, “1″ hour or more of moderate to vigorous activity, and limiting sugary beverages to “Almost None.”
5: Aim for 5 fruits and vegetables a day.
If you could change only one thing about your eating habits, this is a great one. People often tend to plan their meals and snacks around the meat or the starch. However, by making fruits and vegetables the focus, it will be easier to meet this daily goal. One way is to prepare your dinner plate by dividing it into quarters. Use 2 quarters, or half, for non-starchy vegetables, including, but not limited to broccoli, carrots, lettuce, tomato and green beans. Use one quarter of the plate for the starch, including bread, pasta, rice, most beans, peas, corn and potatoes. The remaining quarter of the plate is for protein, including lean beef, poultry, pork, fish or tofu. Remember to go easy on your portion size. Resist the urge to load up your plate, and if you go back for second helpings, do your very best to stick with non-starchy vegetables.
Another way to encourage a healthy environment at home is to be selective about which foods and beverages come into the house. Avoid bringing home packaged high-calorie snack foods (potato chips, cakes or cookies) or high-fat convenience foods (canned ravioli or frozen dinners/snacks). If those items are at home, they are a temptation for anyone in the house, and they often take the place of fruits and vegetables. It’s ok to go out and treat yourself to a small cup of ice cream or French fries every once in a while, but it should not be a regular occurrence nor should it be regularly available at home.
Parents always tell me, “my kid won’t eat anything but chicken nuggets and mac-n-cheese!” Well, consider who is buying those items. The parents’ role is to provide healthy foods. The child’s role is to at least taste what is offered to them. If your child does not like it, don’t battle with them over it. Give them a narrow selection of food choices and stick to your guns. Instead of asking, “What do you want for a snack?” ask “Do you want an apple or a handful of grapes?” It’s ok if they choose to eat nothing, because it means they are not really hungry. Be consistent – if they are truly hungry, they will go for the fruit or vegetables!
2: Limit screen time to no more than 2 hours a day.
Screen time includes time spent using a TV, computer, playing videogames and even texting. Children are increasingly less active these days, so set daily limits on screen time. Technology that incorporates screen time and physical activity, such as active Wii games, can be counted toward light to moderate physical activity.
1: Aim for 1 hour a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity.
This is the type of activity that gets you out of breath and makes it a little difficult to carry on a conversation. It needs to be something that children enjoy and doesn’t necessarily have to be an organized sport. Kids follow the example of their parents, so look for family activities to do together.
Almost None: Drink almost no sugary beverages.
Sugary beverages include any beverage with high levels of sugar in it. This includes regular soda, sweet tea, lemonade, fruit flavored drinks, sports drinks and even juices. “Almost None” means you should drink no more than about six ounces a day, which is the amount found in half of a can of soda. Juice labeled as 100 percent fruit juice is tricky. They can offer some vitamins and minerals found in fruits, but they are highly concentrated in sugar and should be kept to a minimum as well. Water is the healthiest choice, period.
“5-2-1-Almost None” is a simple yet powerful set of goals to aim for. Most people don’t realize they don’t have to follow a strict diet to experience a major improvement in their health over time. Follow these simple guidelines consistently, and you will help you your family live a healthier lifestyle!
Article by Mandy H. Layman, MS, RD, LD/N, CDE with Nemours