Inspired by Dr. Fuhrman's nutrition message: Food for Life teaches children and families how to enjoy healthy foods

 by Natalie Obermeyer

Vegetables consist of less than 2% of American children’s diets, and the CDC predicts that for the first time in history the current generation of children will have a shorter lifespan than their parents.1,2

Jennifer Taylor and Theresa Roden of the Wellness Foundation are aiming to improve the health of children and their families by inspiring them to eat nutrient rich diets. Students learn the how they can prevent diseases such as heart disease and diabetes and live long, healthy lives through what they eat. In each class students learn a lesson about a specific topic such as the benefits of the phytonutrients in vegetables, the “not so sweet truth” about sugar, and the benefits of eating a plant-based diet. Then, students get to prepare and eat their own nutrient-rich foods including green smoothies, fruit salad with cashew cream, and avocado bean dip. The children love the fun, interactive class and discovering many new healthy foods.

 

“We have a choice and I choose to be a healthy kid. Thank you Food for Life!”– Luis, student

Children

“I never thought eating healthy and learning about nutrition could be so much fun. I do not want to have heart disease or type 2 diabetes when I grow up, so I pledge to lead a healthier life. This program has really changed my life.” – Ben, student

Children drinking green smoothies

Food for Life has dramatically impacted the entire families of its participants. Students are encouraged to invite their parents and even grandparents to attend the classes, and students beg their parents to attend. Parents join the classes over their lunch hour, and it is not uncommon for the class to have almost 100% parent participation. With the whole family learning together, the nutrition students learn in school can be implemented at home as well. Parents themselves are experiencing the benefits, and many no longer need insulin or other drugs.

Food for Life is now expanding its program to other schools and is in the process of creating a curriculum for pre-school and 3rd graders. Eventually they plan to provide the program for pre-school, kindergarten, third, sixth, ninth and twelfth graders. They want to empower as many students as possible to take control of their health by developing habits that will last a lifetime.

Children can learn to love healthy food, and the Food for Life program is proof of this. Well done, Wellness Foundation, for exposing children to nutritional knowledge and healthy cooking!

 

References:

1Fox MK, Pac S, Devaney B, Jankowski L. Feeding infants and toddlers study: What foods are infants and toddlers eating? L Am Diet Assoc 2004;104(1 Suppl):s22-s30

2Olshansky SJ, Passaro DJ, Hershow RC, Layden J, Carnes BA, Brody J, Hayflick L, Butler RN, Allison DB, Ludwig DS. A potential decline in life expectancy in the United States in the 21st century. N Engl J Med. 2005 Mar 17;352(11):1138-45. PubMed PMID: 15784668.

 

Inspiration: Crazy Joe Clark, Lean on Me

We’ve all seen the movie Lean on Me, starring Morgan Freeman, about former principal of Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey, Joe Clark. I love the movie! It’s like the Godfather. Anytime it’s on I have to watch it. Now, here’s an interview with the real Crazy Joe:

 

 

Inspiration is a kick in the pants and Mr. Clark will gladly whip your butt into shape. So, whether it’s losing weight, getting to the gym, improving your diet or asking that coworker out. Pick yourself up and do it. If you can’t, think about Joe Clark and what he fought through. Feed on that!

Image credit: ralongx

Teenagers Up Late and Wired on Caffeine

A new study in the journal Pediatrics found many teenagers are wigged out on caffeine and up late surfing the web, texting their friends and watching television. Experts surveyed 100 kids, ages 12 to 18 years old, finding only one in five participants got 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night, one third of kids reported falling asleep in school and teens multitasking with all their gadgets were more likely to risk poor academic performance. Average caffeine consumption among participants was 215 mg a day, roughly two espressos; Reuters reports.

Caffeine is a toxin and like a drug it can cause uncomfortable detoxification symptoms, leading to poor diet and food addiction. It also heightens risk of cardiovascular disease by hardening arties and raising blood pressure and last year, caffeine was linked to miscarriage risk.

In related news, Germany banned Red Bull after finding trace amounts of cocaine in test samples and officials in the United States have already called for warning labels on energy drinks.

Image credit: caro77

More Fiber, Less Sugar Cuts Diabetes Risk in Latinos

New findings in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine suggest eating more fiber and less sugar can lower the risk of type-2 diabetes in adolescent Latinos. For the study, 66 overweight Latino teenagers were put into three groups. One group attended weekly classes on nutrition, specifically reducing sugar and increasing fiber. Group two was given nutrition education twice a week and did some strength training. The final group served as a control. After 16 weeks teens who ate less sugar and more fiber had substantial drops in blood glucose and insulin levels; Reuters reports.

In New York City, type-2 diabetes hits ethnic groups hard as they abandon traditional diets in favor of standard American fare, 800,000 people in NYC have diabetes. Yesterday, a study showed 22% of Hispanic children in America, ages 1 to 4, are obese. Dr. Fuhrman recommends the whole family eat healthy early to promote good eating habits later in life.

In related news, research shows children going to high school within walking distance of fast food restaurants are more likely to eat less fruits and vegetables and drink more soda.

Image credit: mckaysavage

Overweight Kids Can Have Heart Disease

Presented at this year's American Heart Association's Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention researchers claim overweight children as young as age 3 can starting showing signs of cardiovascular disease. Data on over 3,090 kids, ages 3 to 6, revealed good cholesterol levels (HDL) were lower in overweight children and C-reactive protein levels, associated with coronary events, were elevated in kids with higher body mass indexes; HealthDay News explains.

It’s true. Dr. Fuhrman points out that lipoprotein abnormality, i.e. high LDL and low HDL, which cause heart attack deaths in adulthood start to develop in early childhood. What you eat as a kid affects lifetime cholesterol levels, but don’t fret! Maybe you’re like me and ate fairly crappy early on, no worries. Start gobbling down fruits and veggies and you can aggressively reverse any damage you’ve done!

Now this is really scary. Children already have the attention span of a flea and previous studies link low HDL to poor memory. And worse, when kids grow up and want to play football, they’re encouraged to get big and bulk up which just like professional football players, inflates their risk of heart disease.

Image credit: Nick Traveller

Preschool Lunches, Parents Skimp on Healthy Stuff

This fall, a study revealed the food supplied to 94,000 public and private schools by the United States Department of Agriculture is of poor nutritional quality, too many high-fat foods, like pizza and chicken nuggets. In California, fruits and veggies only make up 13% of the total money spent on school food.

And now, new research in Journal of the American Dietetic Association claims most bagged lunches, packed by parents, did not have enough of fruits and vegetables. Researchers studied the lunches of 74 children from 5 different childcare centers, observing their packed lunch for 3 days. They found only 29% of the packed lunches had adequate fruits and vegetables. And many parents were more likely to pack foods kids liked, rather than healthy, nutritious foods; HealthDay News reports.

Not surprising. Some parents feed their kids pizza and French because they don’t like vegetables and fruit hurts their mouth. Kooky! That why Dr. Fuhrman says it’s the parents’ job to set the example, if you want your kids to eat healthfully, start eating YOUR fruits and veggies! Monkey see, monkey do.

Image credit: freshelectrons

Green-News: Thursday 1.15.08

  • The rainforest houses the world’s largest collection of plants and animals. Scientists call it our heart and lungs, but the Brazilian Amazon has suffered major deforestation, more and more land is being cleared for cattle pastures. In some areas, deforestation has increased by 50% in 1 year; from LiveScience.
  • Maybe old people can replant the rainforest! A new study suggests gardening helps older men and women feel better. Researchers claim on most days gardeners meet the recommended 30 minutes of moderate physical activity and in the spring many people spent an hour gardening; Reuters reports.
  • And a Japanese firm plans to manufacturer CD and DVD cases with rice-plastic. The composite material is 10% rice and consumes significantly less fossil fuel during production and emits 10% less carbon dioxide than traditional materials, but the hybrid cases are more expensive; from CleanTechnia.

Image credit: Zanthan Photos

Fit Kids Make Healthy Young Adults...

A new study in Pediatrics claims a person’s level of fitness as a child influences their health as an adult. Of the participants, Norwegian students, those who were more physically active at age 13 were less likely to become obese and develop high blood pressure in their 20s and mid-30s, but this effect dissipated by age 40. Leaving researchers to recommend staying fit as you grow up; Reuters reports.

With so many schools cutting gym programs and obesity soaring worldwide, a lot of attention is being paid to keeping kids active. The National Football League has its Play 60 campaign and recently, India’s health minister suggested making Yoga mandatory for all school children.

Oh! And remember, the television is the enemy. Children that watch too much TV are unfit.

School Lunch Poor, But Could Teach...

In the fall, a report by the California Food Policy Advocates gave U.S. school food a failing grade, citing poor nutritional quality, i.e. kids aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables. And now, a new release from the Institute of Medicine, in Washington D.C., reveals school food provides more than half of a student's nutrient intake during the school day, making school meal programs the perfect vehicle for teaching children the importance of good nutrition; Reuters investigates.

But not all U.S. schools are devoid of good health and nutrition. Recently, schools like Anthony Elementary, Leavenworth, Kansas and South Elementary, Pinson, Tennessee, were praised for their efforts to get kids healthy, by opening onsite wellness centers and eating lunch in the classroom, to promote a family-like atmosphere.

Even Prince Charles wants kids to reconnect with healthy food.