How Preschools and Daycares can help: the 5-2-1-0 rule

It is important that children of all ages maintain a healthy balance of energy in and energy burned off as children who become obese before 6 years of age are likely to stay obese throughout childhood. They also have a 50% increased risk of becoming an obese adult. Canadian Council of Food and Nutrition.

Preschools and daycares play an important role in teaching a child good eating habits and how to live an active life. Active and healthy children learn better and develop healthy habits that can last their whole lives.

Rule 5

5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day

Fruits and vegetables contain many nutrients that a child’s body needs and they should form the corner stone of everyone’s, including preschoolers, diets. According to the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey, children who eat five or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day are significantly less likely to develop overweight and obesity than children who eat less than 3 servings per day. Additional evidence supports the linkage between high fruit and vegetable consumption and decreased cancers, diabetes and heart disease rates. Help your students reach the goal of 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day:

  • Encourage your students and their families to eat fruit and vegetables at every meal and to a pack fruit and vegetables as a snack for preschool or daycare.
  • If your preschool or daycare serves snack and/or lunch to students, serve fruit and vegetables at each mealtime.
  • The Dietitians of Canada website has tips on meal planning and sample recipes to help care providers ensure preschoolers eat well.

Rule 2

2 hours of screen time or less per day

The latest Canadian data indicates that children who watch more than 2 hours of screen time (TV, computer, video games) per day have double the incidence of overweight and obesity when compared to children who watch less than 1 hour per day. Screen time takes the place of essential physical activity. In addition children eat while they watch and often will eat what they watch, that is, what they see advertised. Most food and beverage ads on children’s programs are for high calorie, low nutrition content foods. Help minimize screen time for your students:

  • Educate your students and their families to limit screen time to less than 2 hours per day and keep children physically active. We recommend the use of a timer to avoid quarrels as to how much time has elapsed.
  • Remind students and families that children should not be allowed to watch TV before 2 years of age and there should be no TV in the children’s bedroom, no matter what the child’s age.

Rule 1

1 hour of physical activity or more per day

Young children tend to be active for brief periods at a time, at various levels of intensity. They do not spend much time in vigorous activity. Patterns of physical activity in young children carry on into adulthood. That’s why it’s vital to instil the importance of activity from an early age. The US-based National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) recommends that toddlers get at least 30 minutes of structured physical activity daily, and preschoolers get 60 minutes. Both should have 60 minutes unstructured activity. Help your students reach their daily physical activity requirement:

  • Build physical activity into the daily routine at preschool and daycare. Take the children for a walk each day. Provide time for unstructured playtime outside each day. Find games and activities in the classroom to get the children physically active.
  • LEAP BC has a new, free manual for early learning practitioners. This comprehensive manual has 60 play-focused activities for preschools and daycares, incorporating physical activity, literacy and healthy eating. There are accompanying professional development sessions and resource support.

Rule 0

0 sugar sweetened beverages per day

We know that one of the major contributors to the childhood obesity epidemic is the over consumption of sugar sweetened beverages (SSB’s). Examples of SSB’s are soft drinks (pop), fruit “beverages” , “punches” or “cocktails” (bought or homemade), flavoured milk, sports drinks and flavoured coffees. These beverages are liquid candy and should rarely be served. 100% pure fruit juice does not contain added sugar but may well contribute to excess weight gain and portions should be limited.

Aside from weight gain, a child who drinks too many SSB’s may also have tooth decay and loose bowels or diarrhea due to problems digesting the sugars in the drinks.

Help decrease the amount of sugar sweetened beverages that children are drinking:

  • Provide your students with plain milk and water to drink instead of SSB’s.
  • If SSB’s are to be served they should be viewed as a dessert substitute.
  • Encourage parents to limit fruit juice to one small glass (125 mL) per day. Fruit juice contains the sugar of fruit but at higher amounts than in fresh fruit since it takes many fruits to make one glass of juice. Advise parents to give children fresh fruit instead of juice.
  • Encourage parents to pack water or milk in their child’s school lunch instead of a juice box.

LIVE 5-2-1-0!


or more veggies and fruit per day


no more than two hours of screen time a day

hour of physical activity or more per day


no sugary drinks