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Good nutrition and plenty of exercise are the building blocks for strong growth, healthy development and lifelong wellbeing for children.
Good nutrition is essential to healthy brain development in children which is, of course, critical to learning. Establishing healthy eating and exercise habits early in life can lead to long term healthy behavior in adulthood.
Daily exercise also helps children to build stronger muscles and bones and limit excess body fat.
Lack of access to healthy, wholesome foods and inadequate physical activity contributes to kids becoming overweight and not getting adequate nutrition for their growth and development. Hunger — kids who do not get enough to eat are at risk of developing chronic health conditions, behavioral problems, academic struggles, anxiety, depression and even obesity especially if they only have access to poor quality processed food. Advertising by other industries often objectifies girls and women, contributing to body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression. Television viewing is linked to childhood obesity because it displaces physical activity, increases snacking behavior while watching, exposes kids to potentially harmful advertising and reduces their resting metabolism. Risks to academic achievement — result from children not getting adequate nutrition and physical activity. Overabundance of unhealthy foods — too many schools offer poor nutritional choices in the form of unhealthy school lunches or even vending machines filled with candy, processed snacks and sugary beverages. Lack of opportunities for physical activity — many schools have scaled back requirements for a daily recess and do not prioritize physical education opportunities for children at every age.
Peer behaviors — peers can serve as remarkably powerful role models for children and may share their unhealthy eating or exercise habits with them. Overabundance of unhealthy foods – there are a growing number of communities called “food deserts” where supermarkets and grocery stores are scarce or charge higher prices for healthy foods than processed foods.
The built environment – lack of adequate and safe parks, bike lanes, playgrounds, recreational facilities, or walkways can restrict opportunities for children and teens to get exercise.

Parents and caregivers control the types of food children have access to in the home and can maximize access to healthy, wholesome foods (fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy).
Parents and caregivers significantly influence the likes and dislikes that children attach to certain foods. Eating with your children at regular family mealtimes can help establish positive nutrition habits and healthy weights for children. You can call for the construction of parks or playgrounds and restriction of fast food places in your neighborhood. You can push school administrators to introduce after-school programs that incorporate physical activity or nutrition education, healthier school lunches, and policies that eliminate the use of vending machines on school grounds. As parents and caregivers, you are critical to establishing the necessary and lifelong habits of healthy eating and exercise in children. Role model — Make sure to eat healthy, wholesome foods and get plenty of exercise yourself.
Advocate — use your voice to push for positive changes in child care, schools and your communities that facilitate healthy eating and exercise.
Make sure that calorie intake and portion sizes are matched to your child’s age and activity level. Connect kids to their food by continually introducing them to new types of healthy food and allowing them to participate in food shopping and preparation so that they can understand what goes into their meals and maintain healthy cooking habits as they grow up.
Protect the time you eat with your kids — children who dine at regular family mealtimes get better nutrition, perform better in school and bond better with their families.
Change their media diet — limit TV time to one to two hours of quality programming per day, monitor internet use and make sure they avoid snacking during TV time.
When it comes to establishing healthy habits, you can teach them how to “ABCDE” (Act Boldly to Change Diet and Exercise). Children need at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity in the form of physical play or sports.

Many adolescents, particularly teenage girls, have body image concerns and engage in these behaviors threatening both their physical and mental health. Food advertising is pervasive and can be found on multiple media platforms (TV, web and even embedded in computer games).
Hunger can be particularly damaging to children’s progress in school and cognitive development overall.
Bullying and teasing from peers can be particularly damaging and teachers and school staff may attribute less desirable personality characteristics to obese youth and their families.
In addition, many underserved communities are populated with fast food restaurants that are often located near schools and playgrounds. Retrieved from APA resolution on promotion of healthy active lifestyles and prevention of obesity and unhealthy weight control behaviors in children and youth.
Retrieved from Promoting healthy behaviors to prevent obesity and unhealthy weight control in our youth. You exert the most influence on your children’s behavior and can model healthy attitudes and habits toward food and physical activity that persist as they grow up. There is even research that suggests that this begins in infancy; children who are breastfed may be exposed to different flavors in their mother’s breast milk than the sugars and fats in infant formula. Local wellness policies: Assessing school district strategies for improving children’s health. Retrieved from Chicago, IL: Bridging the Gap Program, Health Policy Center, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago.

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