You might remember a little experiment I conducted in our house a few months back to test just how easy it was for a real military family to stick to the 5210 plan for healthy military kids. To jog your memory, 5210 recommends:
- 5 servings of fruits and veggies daily
- Closely monitored screen time for ages 2 and older
- 1 hour of physical activity daily
- 0 sugary drinks
We survived 5210 for five days, but, what happened on day six, seven, 152, etc.?
It’s time for some real talk. First, juice boxes are currently stocked in our fridge for my son’s lunches. Second, my kids had the weirdest summer of their lives. It started in May when we left California to travel to Texas on our pre-PCS goodbye tour followed by a three-day trip to Japan. They didn’t go back to school until August 30. That’s a lot of summer, you guys. Were they active every day? Unless you count hauling through the airport to catch connecting flights, no. Finally, we faced, and to an extent are still facing, the challenges of getting settled in a new place. Screen time, honestly, was necessary some days so that I could unpack for more than five minutes without interruption. Fruits and veggies aren’t as widely available here as they were in the salad bowl that is the central coast of California, and what I can get my hands on looks different. If you’re a parent trying to coerce a picky eater, you know that appearances are half the battle.
Now that we’ve been in Japan about three months and the kids have the routine of school, this is a good time for me to re-evaluate where we’re at on the 5210 scale:
Fruits and veggies
Here in Japan, the cucumbers (a favorite veggie for my kids) are closer in size to pretzel rods. By the time I peel them — because my son has something against peels – there’s hardly anything left. Most of the fruit I’ve seen are outrageously priced (seriously $12 for a small watermelon). I’ve started to really count on frozen fruits for smoothies (I swore I would never be a smoothie person, but here we are) and frozen veggies for dinner sides.
We lose points for falling from our previous perfect score of five fruits and veggies every day, but we fit them in anywhere we can. Some days we have more, some less. While we miss all the readily available produce, we’re expanding our palate over here. The kids are eating curry (and warming up to the idea of sushi) and they are slowly coming around to the skinny cucumbers.
Screen time vs. physical activity
I watched (err, overheard) more Phineas and Ferb than I care to admit this summer. My kids were home, my husband was gone and I was staring at a whole lot of cardboard boxes that had to be unpacked before Japan could start to feel like home. So, yes, my kids watched a lot of TV and — despite my best efforts — it wasn’t all educational. But, I’m OK with it because: 1. We were in transition, and 2. That wasn’t all they did this summer. They also spent six weeks in swim lessons; my 6-year old even passed his swim test to swim solo in the pool. They also learned not only to walk to and from swim lessons, but to walk everywhere here on our little base. We walk to school and from school, the library and the pool.
Now that school is in session, between eating, school, homework, afterschool activities — currently gymnastics – and the bedtime routine, they only have an hour or two to themselves. If they want to spend some of that on screen time, I’m cool with that. And, when we do have time to spare, we can usually be found park hopping around Japan’s incredible playgrounds.
This one is short and sweet (pun absolutely intended). Do they drink sugary drinks? Yes. Do they drink water and milk more often? Yes.
To me, it’s not about never having sugary drinks — my kids are going to have root beer floats occasionally and I’m not going to apologize for it — it’s about instilling the mindset that they can’t only have sugary drinks. They know water comes first, and if they ever had doubts, walking all over base in the summer heat sure gained water some popularity points.
I will continue to use 5210 more as a reminder to teach my kids healthy habits than as a hard and fast rule. There is no point adding one more element of stress; parenting and childhood already have plenty without losing sleep over missing a portion of veggies. Let’s just agree to do all we can to achieve a happy, healthy balance for our kids and for ourselves.