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Parents can help their child have a healthy school year

Brief Description

Parents can help their kids develop healthy eating habits and goals for physical activity as the new school year approaches.


Kern: Children are heading back to school and health experts like Dr. Griffin Rogers, director of NIH's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, say it's the perfect time for parents to emphasize healthy eating and physical activity.

Rodgers: A new school year signals time for kids to be with friends, study new subjects, and get involved in after-school activities. With so many demands on you and your child during the school year, it is easy for healthy eating and physical activity habits to take a back seat. We want to remind parents and their children that they don't have to let busy school days and after school activities lead to skipped meals and inactivity. In fact, healthy eating and regular physical activity may help the whole family meet the challenges of a hectic school year.

Kern: Dr. Rogers suggests evaluating the foods your child eats at school.

Rodgers: Whether your child eats breakfast and lunch at school or you pack these meals for him or her, these meals should provide your child with about two-thirds of the nutrients they need for the day.

When your child buys meals at school, review the menu with them and help them choose healthier foods like a turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread. Encourage your child to think about what he or she drinks, too.. Choose water, fat-free, or low-fat milk more often, instead of soda or other sweetened drinks or juices.

Kern: Encouraging physical activity should also be a top priority says Rogers.

Rodgers: Children should be active every day, whether they play sports, take P.E. or get from place to place by walking or bicycling. Make sure your child gets at least 60 minutes or more of physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. If your child is not used to being active, encourage him or her to start with what they can do and build up to 60 minutes a day. Some activities that your child might enjoy trying include, jumping rope, playing volleyball or playing catch. Replace after-school TV watching and video game use with physical activity. Help your child get involved with activities at school or in your community. Volunteer as a family to clean up a local park or playground.

Kern: Dr. Rogers also gives tips for helping children who may be overweight or obese.

Rodgers: Children grow at different rates at different times, so it is not always easy to tell if a child is overweight or obese.

We know that overweight and obesity tend to run in families. In addition to genes, the world in which children and their families live and work and play may contribute to overweight and obesity.

If your child is overweight or obese, he or she is at greater risk for developing serious health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease and other health issues. Helping children achieve and maintain healthier lifestyle habits, such as more physical activity and healthy eating, may lower their chances of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, and other serious health problems as adults.

If you think that your child is overweight or obese, talk to your health care provider. He or she can tell you if your child's weight, height, and blood pressure are in a healthy range.

Kern: For more information in English or Spanish on children, healthy eating and physical activity, visit the Weight-control Information Network at

To learn more about managing diabetes in youth, visit the National Diabetes Education Program at

For NIH Radio, I'm Margot Kern...Turning Discovery Into Health®

About This Audio Report

Date: 8/16/2012

Reporter: Margot Kern

Sound Bite: Dr. Griffin Rodgers

Topic: Back to school, healthy eating, physical activity, healthy habits, obesity, overweight children, childhood diabetes

Institute(s): NIDDK

Additional Info:
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This page last reviewed on August 16, 2012

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