Summer school……..lunches?

I found this article and thought it was really interesting. It talked about a concept I hadn’t really considered before but it makes perfect sense. During the school year kids are on a pretty regular schedule, in both how they spend their time and how they eat. There is time set aside during the day and a prepared meal given to them to ensure they get the proper nutrition they need. Summertime is fun for kids in many ways, but the less structured and unpredictable schedule can have its downsides. Meals may become less nutritious or just empty calories, or even skipped altogether. This article talks about a summer school lunch program focused on lower-income children, to give them a place to have healthy meals, and participate in fun summer activities they may not have otherwise gotten to do.

The article reports that the programs are effective, however there are roadblocks that exist. Difficulties connecting the program to eligible children, not enough sites, or eligible children do not have a way to get to the food site. But efforts are being made to improve the program and make it more accessible to more eligible children. It is touching to see people working so hard to support the health of lower-income families and children. This is what Public Health is about, reaching out and prevention, making sure everyone has equal opportunities for healthy lifestyles.

The USDA also has a national summer food service program for kids, find out more by clicking here.

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You can’t have one without the other

Most of my blog has focused on nutrition for kids, but exercise is equally as important for the health of a child, as well as adults. A good diet and regular exercise are the best medicines for preventing numerous short and long term illnesses. Kids are recommended to get at least 60 minutes of exercise a day, which may seem like a lot to an adult, but kids are usually quite active and can quite realistically get that much exercise in.

The CDC recommends that cardio or aerobic activity should make up the bulk of a child’s 60 minutes of exercise, and muscle and bone strengthening exercises should each be done about 3 times per week. You can see their recommendations with more information by clicking here. Also check out this kids.gov site, full of other government links that promote exercise.

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The Reality of Childhood Obesity

Obesity rates among children has more than tripled in the past 30 years. Among 6 to 11 year-olds it has increased from 6.5% to 19.6%, and from 5.0% to 18.1 % in children ages 12 to 19 years. Obesity has many long term health implications, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, and other chronic diseases. It can also cause emotional harm if overweight children are teased or treated rudely by peers because of their weight.

Adopting healthier lifestyle habits such as eating well and exercising can lower the risk of obesity, or aid in weight reduction if a child is currently overweight. The CDC has several links on their website that address childhood obesity. There is information to educate parents on obesity and how to address it, how the BMI calculator is used for children, and several statistics on school meals, physical education, and marks obesity rates over time. Obesity is a real issue kids face, and for the most part it is preventable and treatable.

Here’s another similar link from The Obesity Society on the health risks and health recommendations for childhood obesity.

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You eat what you plant

There’s something satisfying about working hard on something then being able to enjoy the end result. Since I was about 6 we have had a small garden in our backyard, and my mom gave me lots of opportunities to be involved with it. I got to help pick what we would plant, pick the weeds to get the soil ready, plant the seeds, and continue to tend it as it grew. It was so exciting to me to see little vegetables begin to grow, and watch them get bigger and bigger and wait for the day that it was ripe enough for picking. I felt important when we had a salad at dinner and my mom told everyone the cucumbers in it were from our garden that I had helped grow.

Getting kids to plant a garden is an excellent way to get them excited about healthy foods. They get to play in the dirt (what kid doesn’t love that?), and feel important because they are doing something “grown-up”. They can even pick the ripe food and eat it right then and there, making it exciting to them. So let your kids get involved, and see them get excited about healthy food!

Check out this website on the national efforts to get kids involved in gardening, even Michelle Obama makes an appearance! Or this site that includes tips on how to get your kids excited about gardening.

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Get your move on

First lady Michelle Obama has been heavily involved  in campaigning against childhood obesity for quite some time since being in office with President Obama. A video from the New York Times shows Michelle Obama’s ideas and propositions for helping kids become healthier. She is standing in front of an ad for a program called “let’s move!” and references it during her speech. It is a great website that addresses all of the goals she is working towards, including physical activity and school lunch menus. Check it out here, or go to my links tab.

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Dietary recommendations

The American Heart Association has a great website that has a lot of information for parents, kids, teachers, and healthcare professionals about the importance of kids eating healthy. It also offers many resources and ways to get involved in the efforts to help kids be as healthy and happy as they can (Look at my get involved tab for links). One great article in particular the AHA has offers a lot of recommendations on promoting good heart health and overall health for your kids. You can find the full article here, but here are some points I felt were important:

* Serve fat-free and low-fat dairy foods. From ages 1–8, children need 2 cups of milk or its equivalent each day. Children ages 9–18 need 3 cups.

* Serve a variety of fruits and vegetables daily, while limiting juice intake. Each meal should contain at least 1 fruit or vegetable. Children’s recommended fruit intake ranges from 1 cup/day, between ages 1 and 3, to 2 cups for a 14–18-year-old boy. Recommended vegetable intake ranges from ¾ cup a day at age one to 3 cups for a 14–18-year-old boy.

* Keep total fat intake between 30 to 35 percent of calories for children 2 to 3 years of age and between 25 to 35 percent of calories for children and adolescents 4 to 18 years of age, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts and vegetable oils.

  • Choose a variety of foods to get enough carbohydrates, protein and other nutrients.
  • Delay introducing 100 percent juice until at least 6 months of age and limit to no more than 4–6 oz/day. Juice should only be fed from a cup.
  • Don’t overfeed infants and young children — they can usually self-regulate the amount of calories they need each day. Children shouldn’t be forced to finish meals if they aren’t hungry as they often vary caloric intake from meal to meal.
  • Introduce healthy foods and keep offering them if they’re initially refused. Don’t introduce foods without overall nutritional value simply to provide calories.
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    Food is FUN!

    Almost every parent has told their kids at one point or another not to play with their food. Well I’m here to say that it’s ok!! If you’re a parent and are having a hard time getting your kids to eat well or try new things, it may be time to try a new approach. Kids are very visual learners, and if a food looks “weird”, they won’t try it. Here is one recipe idea that takes a simple sandwich and  makes it look like a turkey. Try making something like this for your kids or better yet, let them help make it! Check out the website here.

    Teeny Turkeys Recipe

    Instructions
    1. For each sandwich, spread vegetable cream cheese between 2 slices of cocktail pumpernickel bread.
    2. For the head, use a small drinking glass or round cookie cutter to cut a circle from another slice of bread, then stick it to the top of the sandwich with a dab of cream cheese.
    3. Likewise, add facial features such as pea eyes, a red pepper or pepperoni snood (above the beak), and a pepper, cheese, or cashew beak. Finally, wedge pepper, slivered-almond, or parsley-sprig feathers between the bread slices.

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