Study Finds Arkansas Parents Aren't Keeping Kids Healthy At Home

January 19, 2005 – Posted at 4:18 p.m. CST

JONESBORO -- A new state "Child Health Advisory Board" is trying to implement more physical education instruction in public schools. But what about at home?

Medical researchers have told state legislators that Arkansas parents want their kids to be fit and healthy but a recent survey shows they aren't sure how to help them reach those goals. But what steps parents should be taking to fight childhood obesity?

"One of the main things we need to do is keep our kids active. We need to limit the amount of television that our kids watch," said Ann Graeber, registered dietitian.

Experts say a parent getting their kids up and off the couch is the first step to keeping them healthy. Physical exercise is the key to fighting childhood obesity.

"Make sure they're active for at least 60 minutes a day, and it doesn't have to be 60 minutes all at one time," said Graeber, "It can be 15 minutes at a time."

30% of the parents surveyed said they knew the appropriate amount of fruits and vegetables that should be served to their children each day. But for parents of overweight children, they didn't even know that was the case.

How much food a child eats can make a big difference in a their diet. A portion size is no more than half a cup.

"If you are having a problem with your child being overweight, you may want to portion out a snack," said Graeber, "Put it in a Ziploc bag and when it's gone, it's gone. I would keep those snacks at 200 calories or less."

Setting a good example can help.

"They need to eat breakfast, whether they eat breakfast at home or at school they need to eat breakfast. And it doesn't matter if it's a sandwich or a bowl of cereal, portion size is important, but they need to get something in them," said Graeber, "If they see their parents eating, they're more likely to eat too."

Graeber says it's never too early to start.

"If you teach your children early to maintain a healthy lifestyle, there going to avoid so many medical problems in the future and we as adults will to if we'll get on a healthier lifestyle," said Graeber.

And one more reason for parents to start healthy nutrition at home. A separate report last year showed 38% of Arkansas public school students are overweight based on their body mass index.