All parents worry about their child's health. But pestering kids over eating or exercise habits is often futile. Sometimes, it's more effective to let kids teach one another about health and nutrition. My eldest daughter, Daphne Oz, author of The Dorm Room Diet, has taught her siblings and classmates about health. I asked her to write a "Just for Kids" outline that you can email or hand your kids (and your friends).
My parents always wanted me to know why eating healthfully was important to overall performance, probably to drown out my whining for junk food. As I became a teenager, this health knowledge gave me confidence that at least I could understand ways to make my body work for me, and I wanted to share this power with my friends. Whether you are growing up in a home where healthy eating and regular exercise are priorities or where fast food feels just like home cooking, figuring out how to lead a healthful lifestyle can be a challenge. While fad diets might seem like the quick-fix solution to lose weight, they won't help you get healthy in the long run. Cutting out major food groups (like carbohydrates) is not a sustainable diet, and eventually you'll probably end up gaining all the weight back. Even if you do manage to stick with the strict guidelines, who wants to be that person who is completely obsessed with what he or she eats? Rather than torturing yourself (and your friends) by limiting what you are eating to a few, select items, why not try a plan where you're in total control and get to decide where, when, and what to eat? A diet is simply an individual's eating regimen: it doesn't have to mean the restrictive plan we've come to associate this word with. Developing a diet that is healthful, balanced, and appropriate for your particular caloric needs is easy enough and is absolutely critical to establishing a healthful lifestyle that incorporates proper nutrition, adequate fitness, and mental resilience.

Nutrition. A critical step, and the one we start with in our health corps programs (, is learning about resting metabolic rate (RMR), which is the number of calories that your body burns when you are sitting around doing nothing. Since RMR varies from person to person, it's important for each of us to discover our own daily caloric needs so that we can balance eating and exercise accordingly. Eating should be enjoyable, but it should also serve to keep students looking fit and feeling great. By learning about the importance of the various macronutrient groups (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) and the value of information in nutrition labels, we are better educated to make informed choices about eating so fad diets begin to lose their appeal as long term options. We have a cheat sheet to help you read a nutrition label and eat out smartly on Share this information with your friends and use it to audit your refrigerator at home and give your parents a hard time so you all live better.
Fitness You need exercise to look and feel your best, but this doesn't mean you have to live in sweats and play 3 varsity sports. Exercise helps build muscle, thereby increasing your metabolism and your resting metabolic rate, so you can eat more fun foods without putting on pounds. Exercise also enhances the immune system and boosts brain power, which increases alertness and concentration (which is why exercise is such a good study break!). Exercise doesn't have to happen in the gym: just taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or walking a few extra blocks everyday can do the trick. Get a pedometer so you can measure the number of steps you take and keep this count near the goal of 10,000 daily. Increasing the number of steps you take is a great way to get started on working activity into daily life when getting to the gym isn't possible.

Mental Resilience There is an interdependent relationship between mental and physical health. No matter how great you look on the outside, if you are emotionally unhappy, you won't be happy with what you see or how you feel. That's why you have to take time during the day to center yourself and relax, whether through meditation or breathing exercises, or by finding an activity that gives you purpose and makes you feel part of a community. Once you do start feeling and seeing the benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle, this success should boost your confidence and make you feel even more committed to staying on track.

Succeeding at the rewarding task of getting healthy is a wonderful way to start feeling empowered to set other long-term goals, such as promoting awareness of health and health issues among your friends. It will also help make all of us mentally tougher to deal with the challenges of life as our generation inherits the planet.


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