If you’ve never heard of 5210, it’s the Department of Defense’s formula for healthy military kids, and it goes a little something like this:
- Five servings of fruits and veggies every day
- Closely monitored screen time for ages 2 and up
- One hour of physical activity daily
- Zero sweetened beverages
Having inherited my spirit of competition, my 6-year-old son was excited when I turned 5210 into a five-day challenge. He metaphorically smeared on his eye black, rolled up his sleeves and shot me a look that said, “Game on, mom.” Here’s how it all went down:
- Today we maxed out fruits and veggies and the only complaint I got about it was from my husband (for the record, he isn’t even participating in the challenge). During dinner prep, he sent an SOS my way because the kids had already eaten all the fruit and veggie options he suggested. In the end, it was frozen peas for the win.
- Screen time didn’t really change for our kids, but I made a rule that anything on TV had to be educational during the challenge. My 6-year-old was quick to let me know he didn’t approve – “Mom, I wish we didn’t sign up for this challenge.”
- Recess at school and soccer in the backyard got us pretty close to 60 minutes of physical activity.
- I’ll take the heat for the sweetened beverage fail. I forgot to pick up a leak-proof water bottle for my son’s lunchbox. Feeling defeated in the first hour of the challenge, I brushed it off, and by the end of the day, I picked up a case of bottled water.
- We hit the mark on fruits and veggies again. At least, I think we did. I asked my 3-year-old if she had any at school and she enthusiastically yelled, “Yes!” When I asked which ones, she said, “Oh, actually no…never mind.” Note to self: Pick up a school menu.
- Physical activity was a little more challenging today (and by the looks of the forecast, it will be all week) since it rained all day. We bundled up and jumped in muddy puddles after school, and my son said he still had P.E.; it was just inside.
- I’m proud to report that there were no sweetened beverages in sight, and my kids are mildly obsessed with bottled water – apparently, it tastes better.
- “Mom, is it almost the weekend? Because I can’t wait for the challenge to be over so I can watch Ninjago again,” said my son.
- Again, it rained all day. Luckily, it was gymnastics day for both kiddos.
- We took the kids to the celebrity golf tournament where they got plenty of exercise speed-walking through Pebble Beach. Their endurance expired just as the rain rolled in (again), so we called it a day.
- They didn’t eat any fruits or veggies for lunch – slim pickings at the concession stand. But between breakfast and lunch, we were still able to max out on produce.
- By day five, I was tired of counting (and of rain), but you’ll never guess who finished strong. My 3-year-old prepared her own after-school snack of blueberries and baby carrots. Win!
Taking on this challenge, I didn’t expect much to change. I already offer fruits and veggies with meals, our kids are active and we stick pretty close to the milk and water rotation (with the exception of lunch juice boxes). I was surprised to get complaints from the kids, but it was all in their heads. Just like an adult on a “diet,” it’s knowing you can’t have something that makes you want it. If I would’ve just made the changes without announcement, I doubt they would’ve noticed.
The point being that 5210 is a guide, not the law of the land. Use it to create healthy habits for your kids, but remain flexible. If you miss the mark one day, start fresh the next. And, as my daughter taught me, eventually you won’t have to count because the numbers become a routine, and blueberries and carrots are a lot easier to swallow when you ask for them by name.