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Children as decision makers

10 Jun


The United States is facing an obesity epidemic. In Georgia alone, 70% of adults, and 40% of children are obese. In general, obese people die 20 years earlier than those who are not. The messages have been everywhere, establishing that we all need to begin taking better care of ourselves and our loved ones. Sometimes, it may feel like this epidemic is refusing to loosen its grip on our society. Recently Danielle Comer, a student intern from Georgia Southern University, working at our Extension office in DeKalb County attended a conference with the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, at The University of Georgia. The conference entitled “Family and Community as Pathways for Health: Obesity Prevention and Intervention Strategies”, allowed several well renown speakers to present the most recent approaches to tackle the obesity problem. Dr. Jerry Gale, a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, desired for the conference to encourage people to take immediate action.

Danielle reported back to us with great enthusiasm about her experiences at the conference. A summary of the presentations include the emphasis speakers made about the importance of good nutrition and physical activity as ways to fight obesity. If you have children, it is a great idea to involve them in meal planning by giving them several options. When parents buy healthy options they can give the children healthy options to choose from. They will not need to worry about the whole process and the children still have a say in what the family will eat; and the parents know that it will be nutritious. Using the “” website can help with finding healthy selections and portions.

Later in the conference, Dr. Diane Bale, a professor of Human Development, Extension specialist in early childhood care and education, and co-creator of the Eat Healthy, Be Active initiative, spoke about activity and staying active, with a focus on children. She reminded the audience that children are naturally active and should be encouraged to stay active, in order to prevent obesity. Being active does not necessarily mean “exercising.” She admits that sometimes when children are told to exercise they do not always seem to be engaged and view exercise as a chore. Instead, she recommends playing in ways that keep children moving. Activity can and should be made fun, to avoid discouragement and negative mindsets about movement.

So let’s take action! Eat right, Move and Play.

Healthy and easy snacks for after schools activities

15 Aug

My son Nicholas is having soccer practice three times a week in the evenings, and games on the weekends. To plan healthy, well-balanced meals and snacks on my tight schedule, I use MyPlate, the nutrition guide published by the United States Department of Agriculture, as a guide. Meal planning and health tips can be found online at

If we have to eat fast food, we look up for options that are lower in fat and calories. We decide what will be ordered before going into the restaurant. Unfortunately low sodium foods are rare in fast food or any restaurant, but we eat lower sodium foods at home to make the overall intake of sodium less.

About 17 percent of fast food menu items can be considered “healthy choices,” according to On kid’s menus, approximately 12 of the 3,039 possible meal combinations meet nutritional criteria for preschoolers, and 15 combinations meet the criteria for older children.

To help on-the-go families, UGA Extension provides a few tips for healthy snacks and meals.

Simple snacks: plain, dried or paired fruits with sorbet or cottage cheese, yogurt, whole grain cereal, 100 percent frozen fruit bars, nuts for older children, trail mix — made with whole grain cereal, nuts and dried fruit —, homemade fruit breads and muffins (such as banana bread or carrot muffins), low-fat cheese with wholegrain bread or hummus and whole grain pita.

Planned snacks: A few snacks that can be made at home, then stored in a cooler or otherwise retained away from home include peanut butter sandwiches, salads with light dressing, milk in small boxes, hard-boiled eggs, single servings of cottage cheese, cut-up vegetables with light dip made with plain yogurt and homemade soups in thermos bottles.

Before and after practice snacks: Cut-up fruit and/or vegetables, yogurt, milk, half a sandwich made with real turkey (not lunch meat) or low-fat cheese or whole-grain crackers and low-fat cheese make good snacks for active kids.

Cambios en el comedor escolar

2 Aug

school lunchesPor mucho tiempo nos hemos preocupado de la selección de alimentos disponibles en nuestras escuelas para nuestros niños. Pizza, pollo y papas fritas, postres, y bebidas ricas en azúcar han sido la orden del día. Sin embargo el Departamento de Agricultura Federal, quien es el responsable de evaluar los requisitos de los almuerzos escolares, ha iniciado una extensa revisión de las reglas a seguir que promete ser muy positiva y beneficiosas para la salud de nuestros niños y jóvenes. Según Connie Crawley, especialista de salud y nutrición de nuestra Universidad de Georgia, casi el 75% del estudiantado de Georgia utiliza los servicios de la cafetería escolar. Ello serán los que experimenten los cambios en el menú: menos grasa, menos azúcar y menos sal. Muchos de los cambios no se completarán por varios años, pero se han dado pasos importantes hacia el ofrecer un almuerzo más nutritivo y saludable.
Se han establecido restricciones en el contenido de sal de las comidas, se han sustituido alimentos altos en grasa por mejores opciones, los postres serán más saludables y nutritivos y la leche es ahora baja en grasa o sin grasa. Todavía las escuelas tendrán disponibles opciones no tan saludables y es necesario continuar colaborando para una nutrición más adecuada. Es importante que los padres y los cuidadores se unan al esfuerzo de las autoridades para que los niños y jóvenes se acostumbren a estos cambios. Los alimentos que les preparemos en casa deben parecerse a las opciones nuevas del comedor escolar. Los mensajes deben ser congruentes. Salud en la casa, salud en la escuela. Entusiásmenosles a escoger lo mejor: leche baja en grasa o sin grasa, fruta y yogur en vez de pastel y fruta en vez de jugo. ¡Las nuevas alternativas van a ser importantes en la lucha en contra del problema de la obesidad! Brindemos con un rico y refrescante vaso de agua por los cambios propuestos. ¡Salud!

Changes at the school cafeteria

2 Aug

school lunches

For a long time, we have worried about the food selection available to our children at school. Pizza, fried chicken, French fries, dessert, and high sugary drinks have been the order of the day. Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for evaluating school lunch requirements, has initiated an extensive revision of the rules schools must follow in order to ensure that our kids and young people have access to healthy meals. According to Connie Crawley, a nutrition and health specialist at the University of Georgia, almost 75% of students in Georgia eat in their school cafeterias. They are the ones who will experience the changes to the cafeteria menu: less fat, less sugar, and less salt. Many of the proposed changes will not be in effect for many years, but the system has taken important steps towards offering a healthier and nutritious lunch.
The changes proposed by the U.S.D.A. address a number of concerns. For example, salt content will be restricted, foods that are high in fat will be substituted by healthier options, some dessert options will have fewer calories, and milk must now be either low in fat or non-fat. Unfortunately, school cafeterias will still include options that are not as healthy, so it is necessary to continue collaborating as a community to improve nutrition in this setting. It is important that parents and childcare providers join forces with officials in order to help students get used to the changes. The food that we prepare for our children at home should match the new options they will get in the school cafeteria, so that they receive consistent messages about healthy food choices. Health at home, health at school. Let’s motivate them to choose the best: low fat or nonfat milk, fruit and yogurt instead of cake, and fruit instead of juice. The new alternatives will be important tools in our fight against the obesity problem! Let’s toast, with a delicious and refreshing glass of water, to the proposed changes. Cheers!