With the release of its Family Health Snapshot survey findings, the YMCA is kicking off an awareness campaign to reduce learning and health gaps that could hold kids back.

Although most parents consider their children’s habits related to exercise and healthy eating to be high priorities, most may need additional information to help their kids reach these goals, according to a new national survey. This gap may help explain why kids’ activity and eating behaviors don’t meet current recommendations. Achieving a healthy lifestyle is particularly important during the summer months, when kids are vulnerable to not only forgetting what they’ve learned during the school year but also to excessive weight gain.

More than 70 percent of parents were unaware of the recommended standards for healthy eating and physical activity for children according to the YMCA’s Family Health Snapshot survey, conducted in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight. For example, only 29 percent of parents surveyed knew that half of their child’s plate at meals should consist of fruits and vegetables as recommended by USDA’s My Plate. More than half of parents surveyed thought the correct amount was one-third or less. And only about a quarter of parents knew that children should get at least 60 minutes of exercise each day.

Results of the Family Health Snapshot survey, based on responses of nearly 1,200 parents of kids ages 5 to 12, underscore the challenges parents face in ensuring that their kids maintain a healthy lifestyle, especially during the summer.

• While most parents (65 percent) accurately believe that leisure screen time should be limited to two hours or less each day, 64 percent report that their kids spend three or more hours per day online, playing video games, or watching TV during the summer. That’s a 30 percent increase compared with results for the school year.

• Only about half of kids get at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity during the summer.

• While produce consumption rises during the summer months, many kids still don’t eat the recommended amount of vegetables.

• Only 26 percent of kids spend more than an hour each day reading a book for fun during the summer.

• About three-quarters of kids drink sugar-sweetened beverages at least weekly during the summer, and about a quarter of kids average one or more sweetened beverages daily or nearly daily.

• Concerns about preventing learning loss and ensuring their kids eat healthy foods during summer were particularly high among African-American or Hispanic/Latino parents, relative to Caucasian parents (46 percent vs. 33 percent for learning loss, and 47 percent vs. 32 percent for healthy eating).

The survey also revealed that parents prioritize finding enriching activities and ensuring that their kids don’t lose what they’ve learned during the school year over the summer. However, they may need help following through on these intentions to help avoid the “summer slide.”

The Y (www.ymca.net) and the AAP’s Institute (www.ihcw.aap.org) recommend families follow the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) Standards for after school, summer, and preschool programs, which emphasize the importance of fruits, veggies, water and low- or non-fat beverages, as well as limiting screen time and being physically active.

The YMCA’s Family Health Snapshot was conducted online by Toluna Research (www.toluna-group.com), between March 9 and 16, 2015. Participants were 1,198 U.S. parents of children ages 5 to 12.

Hamilton Area YMCA, 185 Sawmill Road, Hamilton 08620; also at 1315 Whitehorse-Mercerville Road. 609-581-9622. www.hamiltonymca.org

Princeton YMCA, 59 Paul Robeson Place, Princeton 08540. 609-497-9622. www.princetonymca.org.

Trenton YMCA,431 Pennington Avenue, Trenton 08618. 609-599-9622. www.trentonymca.org. See ad, page 33.

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