How Healthy is Your Child?

by Mary Ellen Renna, M.D.

There is a silent epidemic spreading throughout America. It is insidious and ravaging, and its victims are our children. What is it? Obesity in children has emerged as a serious threat to our nation's health. Take this quiz to find out if your child is at risk.

1. How often does your family eat out -- including meals at fast food restaurants?

a. 5 to 7 days a week.
b. 3 to 5 times a week.
c. 1 or 2 times a week.
d. Our family never eats out.

2. During sports (or other activities), what do you give your child to keep them hydrated?

a. Water
b. Sports Drinks
c. Soda
d. Juice

3. What is a typical after school snack for your child?

a. Cookies and milk, just like I used to have.
b. A bag of fruit snacks and a soda.
c. A piece of fruit.
d. Chips or pretzels.

4. How much time a week does your child spend playing sports or engaging in other outdoor physical activities?

a. 1 or 2 days a week.
b. 3 to 5 days a week.
c. 5 to 7 days a week.
d. My child doesn't really like to play outdoors.

5. What would you say is a "normal lunch" for your child?

a. Sandwich, chips, and a juice box.
b. A Lunchable and a can of soda.
c. The hot lunch that the school provides.
d. Leftovers from our dinner the night before.

6. How many hours a day does your child spend playing video games, using the computer, or watching TV?

a. 1 to 2 hours a night.
b. 3-5 hours a night.
c. 6 hours every night.
d. My child does not do these things every night.

7. At what age did you child start exercising?

a. Since infancy my child has been exercising.
b. When my child was a toddler he/she started to exercise.
c. My child started exercising in gym class when he/she started school.
d. My child still doesn't really do any kind of exercise.

8. Complete this sentence: Resistance training is_________ a part of my child's life.

a. Often
b. Sometimes
c. Rarely
d. Never


1.  a) 4  b) 3  c) 2  d) 1
2.  a) 1  b) 2  c) 4  d) 3
3.  a) 2  b) 3  c) 1  d) 4
4.  a) 3  b) 2  c) 1  d) 4
5.  a) 3  b) 4  c) 2  d) 1
6.  a) 3  b) 2  c) 1  d) 4
7.  a) 1  b) 2  c) 3  d) 4
8.  a) 1  b) 2  c) 3  d) 4

Awesome Health (8-12)
Congratulations, your child is in awesome health! You know the value of planned family meals and the importance of outdoor exercise. Everything seems to be on the up and up but beware, "Your child may be involved in three or four different sports, but they still need to learn how to exercise on their own" warns Dr. Mary Ellen Renna, New York pediatrician and nutritionist, "Parents need to teach children how to make exercise a part of their daily routine so they can remain healthy when the sport is over." Remember, muscles need proper resistance training too, and that is usually not part of any sports team training. Keep up the healthy work!

Good Health (13-17)
You are helping your child to make a lot of healthy choices; it's time to really kick it into high gear! It's hard to realize that although your child may already be thin they may not be perfectly healthy; there is more to it then that. "It is important to maintain a healthy amount of muscle on your body as well as keeping your heart in shape," Dr. Mary Ellen Renna, author of Next Generation Fitness with Mary Ellen Renna, M.D. reminds us. "Regular exercise will help maintain healthy bones, improve posture, tone and endurance and should be undertaken regardless of a child's weight." By encouraging your child to play outside, go on bike rides, or doing household choirs, you are raising a healthier child one day at a time.

OK Health (18-22)
It's important to remember that not all snacks have to be filled with sugar and that playing a football video game is not the same as actually going outside and playing football. "There are simple things that families can do together everyday without ever leaving the neighborhood to get healthy." Dr. Renna says. "Taking walks, riding bikes, or even shoveling snow together are all great forms of physical activity. The goal is to increase your heart rate, get fit, and have fun!"

Health Risk (23-26)
Your child's exercise and eating habits need to change now! Fast food and video games are not the only things a child should grow up knowing. But don't worry, it is not too late to turn things around in your child's life, "Getting healthy requires setting goals and planning meals, but the child cannot do it alone. Children can only grow up to be healthy adults with the help of their parents. By making a commitment to fitness, you are making an important first step to improving yourself and your family."

Mary Ellen Renna, M.D. graduated with her Medical Doctorate from the New York University School of Medicine in 1986. Dr. Renna is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a diplomat of the American Board of Physician Nutrition Specialists, a member of Nassau County Pediatric Society, American College of Sports Medicine, American Medical Association, A.S.P.E.N, The Society for Clinical Pediatrics, and Docs for Tots. She has been the recipient of several prestigious awards and certificates throughout her career.

Dr. Renna is a life long fitness advocate. She has extensively researched obesity and preventative health relating to exercise and nutrition. Over the past two years, this research has led to the development of the fitness and nutrition program Next Generation Fitness with Mary Ellen Renna, M.D. This program is geared toward children and their families for improved health and nutrition in children. The program is currently available in DVD and book format.

She is married with three children, ages 18, 15 and 9. Dr. Renna is the Senior and Founding Partner in the Pediatric Practice of Renna, Sachse and Shapiro, M.D. PC., located in Woodbury, NY.

Copyright © Mary Ellen Renna. Permission to republish granted to, LLC.