DOD Joins Effort to Promote Healthy Habits in Children
By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 9, 2011 – The Defense Department has joined a national initiative aimed at ensuring the nation’s youngest children, including children from military families, get off to a healthy start.
Speaking from a child care center here yesterday, First Lady Michelle Obama, accompanied by Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, unveiled the “Let’s Move!” child care initiative for parents and providers, which includes standards for healthy eating, physical activity and screen time.
The Defense Department is among the first to adopt these standards, Obama said, noting that DOD serves more than 200,000 children in its child care facilities each day.
The Defense Department is committed to promoting healthy habits among military families, Barbara Thompson, director of the Pentagon’s office of family policy, children and youth, said.
“The Defense Department is very proud to be one of the first to initiate nutrition, screen time and physical activity standards in child care settings,” she said. “This first step is part of a larger strategy to improve a family’s desire for improved health and wellness.”
By introducing healthy habits early on, “child care facilities and home-based providers can be a real building block for an entire generation of healthy kids,” the first lady said, noting more than half of the nation’s children under age 5 are in some type of child care arrangement.
The early years are critical, she added, since obesity rates among children ages 2 to 5 have doubled in recent decades, and children as young as age 3 are showing warning signs of heart disease.
“Let’s Move!” participants will be given a five-step healthy habits checklist, Obama said, which includes:
— One to two hours of physical activity throughout the day, including outside play when possible;
— No screen time for children under age 2. For children ages 2 and up, limit screen time to no more than 30 minutes per week during child care, and work with parents and caregivers to ensure children have no more than one to two hours of quality screen time per day, the amount recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics;
— Serve fruits or vegetables at every meal, eat meals family-style when possible and no fried foods;
— Provide access to water during meals and throughout the day, and don’t serve sugary drinks. Children ages 2 and up should drink low-fat or nonfat milk and no more than one four-to-six-ounce serving of 100 percent juice per day; and
— For mothers who want to continue breastfeeding, child care providers should offer their milk to their infants and welcome mothers to breastfeed during the child care day, and support all new parents in their decisions about infant feeding.
“It’s as simple as five steps,” Obama said. “It’s not complicated. It is not costly. It’s just a matter of knowledge and implementation.”
A few small changes can make a big difference, the first lady noted. “If our kids get into the habit of getting up and playing again, and turning off the TV, and finding other ways to engage themselves other than the computer, … if they relearn how to do that, that’s a good thing.”
The first lady encouraged people to visit the “Let’s Move!” website at http://letsmove.gov or the “Let’s Move! Child Care” site at http://healthykidshealthyfuture.org for how-to tips and ideas for creating a healthier environment for kids.