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Life in the Balance

Poor diet and inactivity during childhood and adolescence increase the risk for poor health, including the likelihood of developing asthma, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes as an adult, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that parents can help their children live healthier lives by establishing positive diet and
exercise habits at a young age. While adults should be physically active for 30 minutes most days of the week, children and adolescents need an hour or more per day.

“Parents should make being healthy a family pursuit, choosing activities that can be enjoyed together, such as biking, hiking or playing games in the yard,” says Amy Adams, M.D., pediatrician on the medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Denton. “Healthy tweaks to exercise and eating habits are recommended if children are considered overweight -- in the 85th to below the 95th percentile -- or obese -- in the 95th percentile or higher -- according to body mass index calculations for healthy weight based on age and height.”

In addition to creating opportunities for families to exercise, focusing on the nutritional value of food teaches children the benefits of making healthier choices. Half of a child’s plate should be filled with two half-cup servings of vegetables or one vegetable and one fruit serving. One quarter of the plate should be lean protein, and the final quarter should contain potatoes, rice, pasta or bread.

“Children should drink water and milk, limiting juice to no more than 6 ounces daily for small children and 8 ounces per day for adolescents,” says NhuNha Tran-Lee, M.D., pediatrician on the medical staff at Texas Health Denton. “If your child is hungry, encourage second helpings of vegetables rather than pasta, potatoes or sweets to keep carbohydrates in check.”

Changes to your family’s current diet can help establish healthy eating habits that last a lifetime. Try these tips for eating right.

• Choose fruits for snack time as well as part of breakfast, lunch and dinner.

• Color your plate with dark green and orange vegetables, including broccoli, spinach, carrots and sweet potatoes.

• Get daily calcium for strong bones without the fat by choosing sources such as fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt.

• Include at least 2 ounces of lean protein, such as beans, fish or poultry, during each meal.

• Limit beverages and foods with sugar as the first ingredient.

• Split your grain servings, making at least half of them whole-grain sources, such as oatmeal, popcorn, brown rice and whole-wheat bread.

• Switch to healthy oils, such as canola and olive oils, and plant-based oil sources, including avocado, fish and nuts.

To find a pediatrician on the medical staff at Texas Health Denton, visit

Fall/Winter 2011

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