For Healthier Kids, Start with Healthier Food
Studies have shown that parents' own behavior has a big impact on kids' habits, so model healthy behaviors at home
By now, nearly everyone has heard of the "obesity epidemic." And sadly, obese kids become obese adults: About 80% of kids who are overweight at 10-to-15 years of age will be obese at age 25. And many of these obese children already show increased risk for "adult" diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
Fortunately, there is an answer to this problem. Providing healthy food in school meals and educating kids, parents, and staff about the importance of good nutrition and exercise improves the health of kids in grades kindergarten through sixth grade.
The right foods improve health
A research project called Healthy Options for Public School Children targeted four elementary schools in Osceola County, Florida. These schools received nutrition, physical activity, and lifestyle education; school meals modified to include nutrient-dense, healthy foods; and parent and school staff education on the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
After two years, the kids in the four elementary schools, particularly the girls, showed measurable improvements in health as compared with children in a control school, which did not receive the Healthy Options program.
Being involved in your kids' health, both at home and through the school system, is an important part of ensuring a long, healthy life for them.
(J Am Diet Assoc 2010; 110:261--67; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Childhood Overweight and Obesity. Accessed March 2, 2010. Available at: www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/index.html)
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.