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Help Kids Take a Step in the Healthy Direction

CONTACT: Jenna McPhee
(617) 246-7412
Jenna.McPhee@bcbsma.com

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts offers information about teaching children how to eat healthy and keep in shape

Boston, MA — November 20, 2009 — Kids today are faced with difficult challenges, particularly regarding fitness and nutrition. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that only 35 percent of American adolescents meet current physical activity recommendations, and only about 21 percent eat the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

When it comes to the nutrition, physical activity and health needs of a child, parents are the key decision makers. One of the best ways to help your family stay healthy is to focus on good nutrition and staying active. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts' (BCBSMA) Prevention and Wellness Program is offering the following tips to help you take advantage of the healthy choices that can affect your child's health in a big way.

Get a Healthy Start on Eating Smart
When given a choice, most children will choose candy and soft drinks rather than a nutritious snack. But forbidding these choices can make your child want them even more. So how do you teach your child to choose healthy foods and enjoy fruits and vegetables?

"Try to keep a variety of nutritious and appealing food choices available," suggests Bryce Williams, Director of Prevention & Wellness at BCBSMA. "Pick one new fruit or vegetable for your family to sample each time you visit the store. If your child sees you enjoying fruits and vegetables and trying new foods regularly, he or she will be more willing to try, too."

Other tips to help children learn healthy eating habits include:

  • Veggie Delight: Cut up fruits and vegetables and make "grab and go" snack bags, or add them to favorite foods—top a pizza or stuff a quesadilla with vegetables. Try a milk shake or smoothie with frozen strawberries or bananas.

  • Involve your child in the kitchen: Kids love to cook and are usually more than willing to try something that they helped to prepare.

  • Can the soda: A 12-ounce can of regular soda has at least ten teaspoons of sugar. By keeping your children's beverage intake mostly to water, you're teaching them a healthier way to quench their thirst. Try to have your child drink at least four large glasses of water each day, more if they're very active.

  • Filling, fantastic fiber: Foods rich in dietary fiber are filling, can help improve digestion, and provide long-term energy. Foods such as bran cereals, fresh and dried fruits, broccoli, asparagus, peas, corn, cabbage, brussel sprouts, whole grain breads, brown rice, and lentils are rich in fiber.

  • Be patient. Trying new foods can be intimidating, and it can take several tries for a child to agree to put the food on their plate. Allow them to see the new fruit or vegetable cooked and served in a variety of ways on separate occasions.

Take a Step in the Right Direction
Being active is one great way to help yourself and your family stay healthier. Making physical activity a part of your family's daily life is easier than you think. Try one of these tips to help get your entire family moving more often:

  • Focus on fun: Set aside a time when your family will swap TV/Screen time for activity time. Try dancing, roller skating, street hockey, or soccer. You can even make up your own family game to get everyone moving.

  • Walking tall: Walking is the most natural way to stay strong. Taking a walk anywhere—to the store, the park, or a friend's house—is a great idea. Make time to walk with your child and set goals around how long and how fast you can walk. Start small, with one 15-minute walk every day, and work up to 30 minutes, then an hour.

  • Stretch and bend: Yoga, stretching, and resistance movements require very little equipment and very little space. You and your children can start with some simple stretches and hold them longer each time. Consider borrowing a yoga video or book from your local library.

  • Trim at the gym: You and your family don't need to join an expensive gym or health club. Most communities have a YMCA or YWCA that caters to family-friendly activities and is also affordable.

  • Encouragement is key: If your children think that they're too uncoordinated or too uncomfortable to get regular activity, give them lots of encouragement. If they get more activity, they're more likely to build self-confidence, coordination, and strength.

Resources for Parents
Here are some resources to help teach your children how to eat healthy and keep in shape:

www.mybluehealthma.com: BCBSMA members can use the My Blue Health Family Fit programs to help educate and motivate the whole family to be more active and learn healthier eating habits.

www.AHealthyMe.com: Explore resources for fitness, fun, family, and a healthy lifestyle.

BCBSMA's Prevention and Wellness Program started in January 1995 and provides initiatives to promote preventive health to BCBSMA's nearly 3 million members, 2.5 million in Massachusetts. For more information about Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts's Prevention and Wellness Programs, call 1-800-262-BLUE.

 

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts ( http://www.bluecrossma.com ) was founded more than 70 years ago by a group of community-minded business leaders. Today, headquartered in Boston, BCBSMA provides coverage to more than 3 million members, 2.5 million in Massachusetts. BCBSMA believes in rewarding doctors and hospitals for delivering safe and effective care, and in empowering patients to take more responsibility, become educated health care consumers and become stronger partners with their doctors. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

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