05/19/2014 07:36 EDT | Updated 07/19/2014 05:59 EDT

Spring Cleaning For Your Child

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This time of year we all need some personal spring-cleaning. The winter is a time when we get too little exercise, eat more comfort foods (remember those unhealthy holiday meals?), spend too little time outside, and often gain weight. Our kids do the same, following our behaviours.

Lets get back to basics, revamp our diet and get more exercise!

Eat more nutritiously

• Children should eat three to five servings of vegetables a day and two to four servings of fruit a day. Consider hiding fruit and veggies in other foods -- smoothies, sauces and casseroles are great at disguising healthy foods.

• Switching from white to brown grains such as bread, bagels, cereal, rice and pasta can have profound impacts on blood sugar, weight and will help minimize constipation.

• Limit processed foods -- if you don't know what the ingredients are in your food, you should limit them. Make these foods special treats, and try fruit as dessert instead of processed foods.

Try these awesome smoothie ideas today!


• Children should get at least 60 minutes of exercise a day. Most of the activity should be aerobic -- get their hearts pumping by running, jumping, climbing, biking or swimming.

• Exercise with your kids -- lead by example! Go for a hike or bike ride, or go to the park. Play catch or soccer outside, or go for a swim in a public pool.

Screen time

• Screen time = TV, computers, video games, iPads and the like

• The American Academy of Pediatrics and Canadian Pediatric Society recommend kids get less than two hours of screen time a day -- far less than the average child. The goal I set for my patients is 30 min or less of screen time a day. The less screen time you have, the more active you are, the more nutritiously you eat and the better you sleep.

• Pick your child's favourite show and watch it as a special treat once a week as a family activity. Planning this 30-60 minute a week pleasure will excite your child's interest in the activity and they may value it more.

Sleep Hygiene

• Kids three to six years of age need 12-14 hours of sleep per day.

• Kids older than six years of age need 10-12 hours of sleep per day -- that's for adults too!

• The more sleep your kids get, the more sleep you get! And who doesn't want more sleep? Too few hours of sleep can lead to obesity, irritability, poor work endurance and lack of exercise. We should stop thinking of sleep as a leisurely convenience, but a necessary activity! To get the most restful sleep, try minimizing screen time and have quiet family activities to relax before bed. Reading and colouring are great before-bed activities.

Outdoor time

• Let's get back to nature! Now that it is nice outside, go get that 60 minutes of exercise with your family. Go to the park, for a bike ride, hike or a swim -- just get your heart rate up and HAVE FUN. Nothing motivates a child to be active more than watching their parents have fun doing it too!

Now stop staring at a screen and get out there!


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