The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has announced a new initiative. They are promoting August as Kids Eat Right Month.
The focus of the campaign is to provide nutrition education, to expand information sharing around children’s health, and to prompt action steps toward better health for the nation’s children. In addition, the Kids Eat Right initiative supports the efforts by the White House to end the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation.
The key components of the initiative include providing information about shopping smart, cooking healthy, improving the family meal environment, guidance about better options for meals, and ways to increase physical activity.
Since improving the health of our children is a multifaceted issue, everyone has a role to play — families, schools, the media, communities, etc.
The target for better eating and increased activity is not just children and teens, however. It actually needs to include the entire family.
The Kids Eat Right Web site (www.kidseatright.org) contains a huge amount of great information about a broad spectrum of topics related to improving eating and physical activity. There are specific sections for parents, schools, the media and the community.
Parents are encouraged to set a good example regarding eating and physical activity, to create a healthy eating environment, and to promote getting active as a family. Parents also can initiate family discussions about why healthy eating and regular physical activity are important.
The Web site contains a lot of material to support these efforts.
Under the section for parents, there are numerous articles on topics that parents will find incredibly helpful. Examples include tips for healthier eating out, dealing with special occasions, vegetarian eating, healthy eating on a budget, reading food labels, special health concerns of children and teens, addressing picky eaters, feeding young athletes, topics around weight issues, and many others.
The Web site also contains detailed information about food ingredients, an abundance of delicious healthy recipes targeted at children, and many useful shopping tips. There is specific information about what kids and teens should be eating for good nutrition and recommendations for physical activity.
Some simple guidelines suggested for families to consider are filling half of lunch and dinner plates with vegetables/fruit, choosing lower-sodium foods, making half of the grains consumed whole grains, choosing water over sugary drinks, and using lower-fat milk rather than whole for children over two years of age.
The Kids Eat Right initiative encourages families to eat together more often. The goal is to enjoy a meal while sharing the day’s experiences with each other. It also suggests that children and teens become more involved in the planning and preparation of meals. Research tells us that these action steps tend to boost the nutritional quality of children’s diets.
Physical activity is being promoted as it supports learning, helps to develop social skills, allows for more time together as a family, can build self-esteem, reduces stress, strengthens muscles and bones, and promotes a healthy body weight. The recommendation is for children and teens to get at least an hour of moderate to vigorous active play each day. Families may want to try activities such as biking, swimming, tennis, softball, basketball, dancing, walking, or other forms of pleasurable physical movement.
Under the Web site section for schools, there are useful ideas for teaching the importance of a healthy active lifestyle, ways to incorporate nutrition information into the curriculum, and suggestions for a number of fun activities. There are free materials available for schools, summer sites, and childcare centers such as posters, handouts, games, songs, a garden-themed nutrition education kit, and age-appropriate activity ideas. There is also information about setting up a school health advisory council and ideas for events related to nutrition and physical activity.
The site notes a number of additional resources and Web sites that can assist parents, schools and communities. An example is a link to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s “Team Nutrition” initiative. This program supports child nutrition programs through training and technical assistance for food service workers, nutrition education for children and caregivers, and school/community support for healthy eating and physical activity.
Another resource noted is the Alliance for a Healthier Generation Healthy Schools Program. This program does assessments of a school’s current health and physical activity programs and develops an action plan for improvement.
In addition to all the information on the Kids Eat Right Web site, you can follow Kids Eat Right on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Google.
So take advantage of all the materials made available by the Kids Eat Right initiative starting this month and moving forward. As families, professionals, communities and the media, we can help to improve the health of our nation’s children and teens, as well as our own.
Visit http://www.eatright.org/kids/ for a wealth of information on kids’ nutrition and activity.
Adapted from article by Pamela Stuppy, MS, RD, CSSD