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Happy & Healthy: Physical Activity for Kids

From the Show: Eat Right Radio
Summary: Physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle for your child.
Air Date: 8/11/14
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Angela Lemond, RDN, CSP, LD
Lemond Angela 0877webAngela Lemond is a registered dietitian nutritionist who works in private practice, assisting children, adults and families with nutrition for disease prevention as well as food therapy to treat medical conditions. On her blog,, she writes about challenges of raising healthy children and offers tips and resources on how to make living well easier.

Learn more about Angela Lemond here.
Happy & Healthy: Physical Activity for Kids
Physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle for your child.

In combination with healthy eating, physical activity can help prevent a range of chronic diseases, help control weight, build lean muscle, reduce fat, promote strong bone, muscle and joint development, and decrease the risk of obesity.

Children need 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day to grow into (and maintain) a healthy weight.

What if your kid would rather sit inside playing video games than get out and "play"?

Encouraging your child to get active might be easier than you think.

For a snack before or after physical activities, serve crackers and cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, trail mix, containers of cut-up fruit and sliced vegetables with a low-fat dip.

They secret behind that is making it all about FUN!  

Angela Lemond, a dietitian mom who specializes in child nutrition, discusses creative ways to maximize the “energy out” that will keep your kids happy and healthy.

Melanie Cole (Host): Physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle for your children. But how do we get our children to engage in that healthy lifestyle and do some physical activity, even when they’re not in school and they don’t have gym and recess? My guest is Angela Lamond. She’s a registered dietician-nutritionist who works in private practice, assisting children, adults and families with nutrition for disease prevention. Welcome to the show, Angela. Let’s talk about getting kids active. In this day and age of video games and in the summer and then they’re back to school, and schools are cutting gym and recess in favor of academics, what do we do to get our kids more active and be feeding them healthier at the same time, really giving them the whole picture?

Angela Lamond (Guest): Thanks for having me, by the way. It is such a great topic. As dieticians, we’re always talking about the energy and with food, right? But the other half of the equation really does have to be discussed. As a mom, I understand. I don’t always know what goes on in the home, because a lot of the popular things that kids are doing, there’s a lot of social circles around video games and gaming and those kind of things. I’m in the middle of this, as well, in my own family. So, things that I know have worked for me and will work for our patients here are really just – the first thing that we have to discuss is being a good role model and this is really difficult to talk about. As parents, it’s very humbling, but we really should be looking at the things that we’re modeling first, because if we make being physically active a priority in our own life, that ends up becoming more of a teaching tool than anything we could tell them to do. So modeling those behaviors is so key. If you’re being active, if things that you like to do whenever you have free time involves being active, then chances are the child is going to follow in that same path. So the environment is so key to that piece. I think that is the case, and then also really setting some guidelines around how much tech time should be in the house. There’s a lot of studies coming out now showing about the negative effects of sedentary activities, separate from the amount of activity a person has. The damaging effects that sitting has is really starting to be connected to some bad health effects. So really minimizing that by setting some guidelines in the home is really critical to minimizing a sedentary activity. If they’re not doing that, then they’re going to be active. Those are the two big ones that I say that’s for sure.

Melanie: Well, Angela, I think that’s such a great way to put energy out and we don’t think of it as that. Everyone hears about that energy and then the role modeling. Because parents have to get involved in it with their children and even making it a competition, putting a pedometer on everybody and saying, “Whoever gets the most steps…” This will give a kid a competition and they’re going to run up and down all day to win.

Lamond: Exactly. And we have seen that firsthand. We’ve done that with kids here and it’s fun. You make being active a fun thing, a little competitive. And one way to do that is – you always have the one person in the family that’s a lot more active than any one person. So the key with the pedometer challenges is doing a percentage of increase which, I think, makes it a level playing field for everybody, because sometimes you see that happening. But, really, making it fun is key. Not necessarily calling it exercise. This is another thing. In our adult mentality, we talk about making sure we get our workout and those kinds of things, but I think the way to be really long-lasting, especially with younger kids, is really not even calling it exercise. It’s just, “Let’s go out and have fun. Let’s spend some time together.” That is so important to kids and families. It’s really nurturing. So what’s a better way to do that, to spend time with your kids and being active? You’re doing two things that are very, very important: spending time with them and making sure that their heart and their muscles are being stimulated. That’s something that we all need to do every day. It doesn’t matter what shape or size we are.

Melanie: So it’s really a family affair, right, Angela? Now speak about – you’re a registered dietician-nutritionist and you know all about that energy in and the energy out. So if we are going to keep our kids that much more physically active, do we need to change their diet in any way?

Lamond: Well, the approach with healthy eating is going to be a lot more generalized when it comes to kids. The younger kids, you definitely want to have, what I call, the “always foods” in the house. I like to do the 80/20 rule. So 80 percent of the foods that are in your home are going to be those always foods that are obvious – fresh fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy, cheeses, yogurts, whole grains, lean meat, all of those kinds of things. If we have, what I call, nature’s fast food ready to grab and go, those are going to be the things that they eat. So we want to kind of try to avoid saying things like diet or diet foods or, you know, “This is too high in carbs.” We’re starting to see a lot of that kind of leaking from the parents, well-intentioned, but those are things we want to kind of – we want them to feel comfortable around food, being empowered to make healthy choices. Really, talking about what those always foods do for them, instead of talking about dieting or any negative connotations around that. We don’t generally have them food log or start a diet, those kind of things. Really even out naturally for children, because they’re also growing, and that’s not the luxury that adults have. We’re done growing, right? So some kids really just need to maintain their weight for a while, while their body adjusts in the height.

Melanie: Now, Angela, what do you think? Schools are cutting recess and gym in favor of academics, which we know we need to keep up with other countries. But kids can’t think clearly without getting their beans out. They have to run around to get that blood flow to the brain in the first place. What do you suggest to parents whose schools are cutting some of their recess time and even gym classes, only once a week maybe, in getting them active those other times when they’re not in school?

Lamond: Well, first of all, I am an advocate to make your voice be heard. So if you’re not happy with something that’s going on in our school district, to join the PTA, to really get onboard where there’s a lot of volunteer organizations to help make changes. And those things are being done. I can tell you there’s a lot of people that are trying to get physical activity back into the schools, so know that. But in the meantime, what I would suggest, I mean, really what’s going to have to happen is you’re going to make up for that sedentary activities. So it’s almost even more important to have those fun activities after school. They’ve done so many studies. They’ve actually hooked kids up to these little EET machines where they’ve been active for 30 to 60 minutes and then they put these little tabs on them that can read their brain activity. And it’s amazing! It’s like their brains light up like a Christmas tree as far as how stimulated their minds are following physical activity. So maybe, after school, you will get your afternoon snack and then they would have an hour of active play before they even sit down and start their homework. We’re pushing a lot of academics, which I highly advocate for, but don’t underestimate the impact that pushing your kids to be active have on the academics itself.

Melanie: Absolutely. In just the last minute or so, Angela, give your best advice for children today, the challenges of parents in keeping their children really, really healthy and active.

Lamond: Well, I believe that you can’t tell your child to do something that you’re not doing yourself. As a mom, I say this every day, that is a very humbling position, being the parents in this day and age. Start with yourself. Start making sure that you’re modeling the healthy eating and the physical activity recommendations that are out there, for a child that should be a very minimum of 60 minutes a day and for adults it really is going on good 45 minutes to an hour of moderate physical activity, each and every day. Make sure you’re starting that, and part of that, I think, doing it is the best you can do for your children and then they will us follow us through with it when you do it as well.

Melanie: Absolutely great information. You’re listening to Eat Right Radio with our friends from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It’s such great information, so share these shows with your friends. This is Melanie Cole for Eat Right Radio. Thanks for listening.