By Joey Skelton, MD, Director of Brenner FIT and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Wake Forest Baptist Health

The New Year is a great time to adopt healthy habits, but making a lot of new changes can sometimes be overwhelming. When people make New Year’s resolutions, they often fail because they try to change what they do instead of how they do it. The best, most effective plan for your family is going to be one that’s easy to follow and sets you up for success.

The 5-4-3-2-1-0 Plan

Because developing new habits takes planning, it’s best to isolate a habit you want to change, and then come up with a strategy for changing it.

At Brenner FIT, our 5-4-3-2-1-0 program is a straightforward plan that is easy to break into manageable chunks. The steps are as follows:

5 – Aim to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

4 – Try to eat together as a family four times a week or more.

3 – Enjoy three meals each day.

2 – Limit screen time (including TV and computer) to two hours a day.

1 – Try to get one hour of physical activity most days.

0 – Reduce the number of sugar-sweetened beverages (including soft drinks and juice) to almost zero.

You may want to start off 2017 adopting a new step each month. This way, you will have many new habits in place by the time summer break starts. With the 5-4-3-2-1-0 plan, you don’t even have to go in order; just choose the one you want to tackle first, then move on from there. So for the month of January, pick the one thing you think you’re going to have the most success with, the one that’s the easiest or that you may already be doing, and start with that. Just be sure you have a plan for how you’re going to incorporate each step into your family’s lifestyle.

So, for example, if you decide to start with No. 4—eating at home as a family—you have to consider how you’re going to make that practical. If your family is really busy—and most are—you’re going to default back to eating out if you haven’t actively planned to have meals at home. So to adopt this new habit, you will want to focus on organizing your family’s after-school schedule, making a meal plan and ensuring you’re stocked on groceries.

Remember that slipping up every now and then doesn’t mean you can’t make positive changes. No one is perfect; we all still eat out from time to time or occasionally have a sweet tea. The key is to adopt habits that make slip-ups the exception, not the rule.

You’re also going to be more successful in making healthy changes if you can tap into resources and support. Brenner FIT’s Facebook page is a great place to find fitness tips, recipes, cooking videos and notification of Brenner FIT family events. Visit us at


*Sponsored by Brenner Children’s Hospital