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Stats and Facts

girls in snow tube

Benchmarks and recommendations

Many of the foundations for a healthy lifestyle are set down in early childhood. Here are some key facts and recommendations on physical activity and healthy eating to help get your child off to a good start in life.

Physical activity

The National Physical Activity Recommendations for Children 0-5 years advise that:

  • physical activity – particularly safe floor-based play – should be encouraged from birth
  • toddlers and pre-schoolers should be physically active every day for at least 3 hours, spread throughout the day
  • children aged 2 to 5 years should spend less than one hour per day watching television and using other electronic media (DVDs, computer and other electronic games)
  • children younger than 2 years should not spend any time watching television or using electronic media
  • infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers should not be sedentary, restrained or kept inactive for more than 1 hour at a time, with the exception of sleeping

Fundamental movement skills

Fundamental movement skills are the building blocks for the more complex skills that children need to play active games and sports at school or in the community.

Parents can help by giving young children fun opportunities to learn and practise skills, such as:

 

jumping

dodging

running

catching

side-galloping

balancing

hopping

skipping

leaping

kicking

striking a ball with a bat

overarm throwing

 

Healthy eating

Babies and infants

Breastmilk is the ideal food for your baby and the only food that he or she needs for the first 6 months of life.

The best time to introduce solids is around 6 months of age, however, it is recommended that a mother should continue to breastfeed her baby for at least 12 months – and longer if mother and baby wish.

Young children

For young children (aged 2 to 8 years), the recommended, daily minimum number of serves of the five food groups are shown below.

Source: The Australian Dietary Guidelines (2013).

 

Age
(years)

Fruit
(serves/day)

Vegetables
(serves/day)

Grains
(serves/day)

Meats
(serves/day)

Dairy
(serves/day)

 

girls

boys

girls

boys

girls

boys

girls

boys

girls

boys

2-3

1

1

21/2

21/2

4

4

1

1

11/2

11/2

4-8

11/2

11/2

41/2

41/2

4

4

11/2

11/2

11/2

2

 

Examples of what a serve means for each food group:

  • 1 serve of grains = 1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta or porridge, noodles, barley, quinoa, polenta, 2/3 cup wheat cereal flakes, 1/4 cup of muesli
  • 1 serve vegetable = ½ cup cooked vegetables or 1 cup salad or 1/2 medium potato 
  • 1 serve fruit = 1 medium or 2 small pieces, 1 cup of unsweetened canned fruit. Only occasionally 1/2 cup of fruit juice or 30g of dried fruit
  • 1 serve milk = 1 cup (250ml) milk, 3/4 cup of yoghurt, 1 cup of soy, rice or other cereal drink with at least 100mg of added calcium per 100ml, 2 slices of hard cheese
  • 1 serve meat or alternative = 65g cooked meats such as beef, lamb, veal, pork, goat. 80g of cooked chicken, 2 eggs, 1 cup cooked or canned legumes/beans.

 

Parents and carers should offer foods from each of the five food groups regularly and encourage children to eat them. However, don’t try and force children to eat food – this can just make food refusal worse.

There is evidence that young children need to be exposed to a new food up to 10 times before it is liked or accepted. It’s worth persevering!

Beyond the five food groups are 'only sometimes foods and in small amounts’, which include biscuits, cakes, desserts, pastries, sugary drinks, lollies, chocolates, crisps, pies, pasties, sausage rolls and other takeaways. These have low nutritional value and are high in energy (kilojoules), which can contribute to children putting on weight. Parents and carers should only offer these 'sometimes foods' occasionally and in small amounts.