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Healthy kids make healthy adults

Focused on Health - 2013

By Alaina Spaniol

A healthy lifestyle is often the best way to prevent many types of cancer. If kids learn healthy habits at a young age,Fruit Plate they will be on the right path to preventing cancer later in life.

The best way to keep kids healthy is to set a good example for them. If you enjoy healthy foods, your kids will be more likely to try them. The same goes for exercising. 

Keep kids moving and eating right

Health experts say kids should exercise at an intensity high enough to raise their heart rate for at least 60 minutes a day, five days a week. To get the right amount each day, exercise as a family. 

Play baseball in the front yard or ride bikes together. Even family chores, like raking leaves and washing cars, are good exercise. When the whole family works together, chores can be fun.

A healthy diet and exercise keeps little bodies strong. Children should get two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables every day, says the United States Department of Agriculture. 

Vegetables – one serving includes:Healthy Lunch

  • ½ cup of chopped raw or cooked vegetables
  • 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables

Fruits – one serving includes:

  • 1 piece of fruit or melon wedge
  • ¾ cup of juice
  • ½ cup of canned fruit
  • ¼ cup of dried fruit

Fruits and vegetables should be a big part of a kid’s diet as soon as he or she starts eating solids. For children ages two to three, a serving size is about two-thirds of the regular serving sizes listed above.

Teach kids to be “snack-wise”

Young children usually eat two to three snacks every day. Fruits and vegetables are a great, healthy option.

  • Keep lots of fruits and vegetables freshly cleaned, peeled and cut for easy snacking.
    • Vegetable snack option: celery stuffed with peanut butter, carrots and low-fat dip
    • Fruit snack option: chunks of banana or pineapple, tangerine sections, apples with peanut butter
  • Store unhealthy snacks in a high cupboard out of sight.

Keep kids at a healthy weight

Kids who are obese tend to remain obese into their adult years. Feet on ScaleObesity may cause 25 to 30% of several major cancers, such as colon and breast cancer, says the National Cancer Institute.

The best way to know if your kids are at a healthy weight is to check their BMI or Body Mass Index beginning at age two. BMI is a number that’s obtained based on a child's weight and height. It’s not a perfect measurement, but it can be useful.

For children and teens, BMI is age- and sex-specific. A child’s BMI number is plotted on a growth chart (for either girls or boys) to obtain a percentile ranking. This percentile shows how the child's BMI number compares to other children of the same sex and age. Children with a healthy weight are usually in the five to 85 percentile of their group.

Check your child’s BMI with the CDC child and teen BMI calculator.

Eat good fats and avoid bad ones

Don’t completely get rid of fats from your child’s diet to control their weight. Good fats have essential nutrients that help children’s bodies function properly. Some healthy fats may even play a role in fighting cancer.

Unhealthy Fats

  • Saturated fats
    • Found mostly in beef, pork, poultry fat, butter, whole milk, coconut oils
  • Trans fats
    • Found mostly in shortening and vegetable oils, and foods fried in partially hydrogenated fats, processed foods, commercial baked goods, stick margarines

Healthy Fats

  • Polyunsaturated fats
    • Found in safflower, sunflower and corn oils, flaxseed and oily fish, such as salmon and sardines
  • Monounsaturated fats
    • Found in canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, olives, avocados, nuts and peanut butter

Studies suggest that one type of polyunsaturated fat, omega-3s, may help to protect the body from developing cancer, says the American Institute for Cancer Research.

The United States Department of Agriculture suggests that parents keep total fat intake between:

  • 30 to 35% of calories for children two to three years of age
  • 25 to 35% of calories for children and adolescents four to 18 years of age

Good habits begin in childhood. A healthy today may lead to a healthy tomorrow.

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center