Parents play a fundamental role as household policy makers. They make daily decisions on recreational opportunities, food availability at home, and children’s allowances; they determine the setting for foods eaten in the home; and they implement countless other rules and policies that influence the extent to which various members of the family engage in healthful eating and physical activity. Older children and youth, meanwhile, have responsibilities to be aware of their own eating habits and activity patterns and to engage in health-promoting behaviors.

Recommendation 10: Home

Parents should promote healthful eating behaviors and regular physical activity for their children.

To implement this recommendation parents can:

  • Choose exclusive breastfeeding as the method for feeding infants for the first four to six months of life

  • Provide healthful food and beverage choices for children by carefully considering nutrient quality and energy density

  • Assist and educate children in making healthful decisions regarding types of foods and beverages to consume, how often, and in what portion size

  • Encourage and support regular physical activity

  • Limit children’s television viewing and other recreational screen time to less than two hours per day

  • Discuss weight status with their child’s health-care provider and monitor age- and gender-specific BMI percentile

  • Serve as positive role models for their children regarding eating and physical-activity behaviors


The committee acknowledges, as have many other similar efforts, that obesity prevention is a complex issue, that a thorough understanding of the causes and determinants of the obesity epidemic is lacking, and that progress will require changes not only in individual and family behaviors but also in the marketplace and the social and built environments (Box ES-2). As the nation focuses on obesity as a health problem and begins to address the societal and cultural issues that contribute to excess weight, poor food choices, and inactivity, many different stakeholders will need to make difficult trade-offs and choices. However, as institutions, organizations, and individuals across the nation begin to make changes, societal norms are

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