The ABCDE’s for Healthy Kids

The ABCDE’s for Healthy Kids

by Kara Ferreira

Childhood obesity and malnutrition are issues facing many young kids in the United States.

  • Approximately 1 in 6 households have kids at risk of going hungry

  • 1 in 3 children are overweight, in part due to a lack of healthy food choices

  • Only about 30% of kids get 20 minutes plus of vigorous activity, while 60 minutes of exercise is recommended on a daily basis

It’s a big problem, and the American Psychological Association (APA) has developed an ‘ABDCE’ action plan containing tips for Acting Boldly to Change Diet and Exercise for Kids.

Parents and caregivers have the opportunity to influence kids’ habits from an early age. The APA notes that parents and caregivers act as role models, gatekeepers, and taste-setters, steering kids towards healthy (or not so healthy) behaviors.

The APA recommendations include:

Use “Go. Slow. Whoa.” as a guide for eating:

  • “Go” foods are not processed or only minimally processed and include fruits, vegetables, high quality protein sources, and dairy products.

  • “Slow” foods are higher in fat and added sugar and should be eaten less often. Foods in these categories include white breads, pasta and processed foods

  • “Whoa” foods are very high in fat, added sugar and calories such as candy and french fries, and should only be enjoyed rarely and in small amounts

Eat together. Families that take time to sit down together at designated meal times to focus on their food tend to eat better. This will also give your kids an opportunity to watch you model healthy eating. Furthermore, kids who eat with their families tend to perform better in school and form stronger bonds with their families.

Monitor media time. Limited screen time to 2 hours maximum of quality programming daily. Include all non-academic screen time in their media limit (ie., video games, internet scrolling).

Make physical activity a priority. Get outside as a family for activities such as walking, hiking and playing catch. Include kids in household chores such as gardening and work around the house.

Taking some intentional steps to improve your children’s diet and increase their physical activity will have huge benefits! Start slow and build momentum.

If you find that you need additional support to make changes to your family routine, we’re here to help! If you’d like to explore working with a therapist, contact us at (734) 323-4897 or for more information. Our practice, based in Novi, Michigan, is home to a team of psychologists with a wide range of expertise. We also offer teletherapy and can see anyone in the state of Michigan.

Kara is a G3 Contributing Writer.


American Psychological Association, Changing Diet and Exercise for Kids