Tag Archives: childhood obesity

Study: Children now like nutritious lunches

28 Jul


Although some elementary school students complained about more nutritious school lunches when they were first introduced in 2012, they like them now, according to a peer-reviewed study in Childhood Obesity released Monday.

More than 500 public schools participated in the study with most coming from the southern region of the United States and rural areas.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago surveyed administrators about the students’ reactions to new meals with standards s presented in the 2012-2013 school year. The new standards required that half of grains offered must be whole-grains, both a fruit and vegetable must be offered daily, milk must be nonfat or low-fat, and no trans-fats. The rules were created to address childhood obesity and were given a public relations push by First Lady Michelle Obama.

The study found that 70 percent of schools reported that students seem to like their new lunches. Fifty-six percent said that students complained at first, while 64 percent of schools agree that few students continue to complain about the lunches. Sixty-three percent of students are no longer concerned about the new changes, according to the research.

“This significant study reinforces what we have known all along:  America’s school lunch program works,” said American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown.  “We hope this sends a strong message to Congress that schools should not be allowed to withdraw from or delay any federal nutrition standards.  By doing so, we may forfeit the fight against childhood obesity, and jeopardize our kids’ health.”


Excerpt from the American Heart Association’s  blog.heart.org. Read the full post here.

Unlocking school playgrounds and gyms encourages physical activity

18 Oct


The United States is facing an obesity epidemic. Nearly one in three children and teens are overweight or obese and many are inactive, according to the American Heart Association. About 50 percent of U.S. adults and 65 percent of adolescents do not currently get the recommended amount of daily physical activity.

School districts can increase physical activity in children and young adults by opening playgrounds, gyms and fields to the community when school’s out, especially in lower-income areas, according to an American Heart Association policy statement published in the American Journal of Public Health.

The statement recommends that school districts and community organizations create shared use agreements to allow supervised activities like sports leagues and unsupervised playing. It reported that low-income communities have less access to recreational spaces and community recreation centers.

“If you want to get active, you need a place to be active,” said Deborah Rohm Young, primary author of the statement. Dr. Young is with the Department of Research and Evaluation at Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena. “We need more voices to help local schools share their playgrounds and gyms with the community.”

Recognizing that schools have legitimate concerns with simply unlocking their gates and doors, the statement identifies five key issues to address with community organizations:

  • Who pays to keep facilities open and maintained;
  • How schools and community groups can best communicate;
  • Whether schools have appropriate spaces for physical activity;
  •  Who takes on liability for injuries or damage to school property;
  •  How schools can select the best groups to work with.

A recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 61.6 percent of the 800 districts surveyed currently have a formal agreement for use of their facilities. However, many of the districts are in more affluent areas that already have more opportunities for physical activity.

“The bottom line is sharing spaces can bring communities together and improve the health of all residents,” said Young. “Many schools have found ways to make it work and with the low rates of physical activity among kids and families, every green space and playground that is available means more kids that are active, more kids that are healthy and more families having fun.”

For more information:


reblogged from  National American Heart Association blog 


Why we Veg Out on Meatless Monday

9 Sep

Ever wonder why we go green every Monday? Its simple. Diets high in red meat are linked to higher instances of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Does that mean we should give up meat all together? Not at all! But going green once a week on Meatless Monday makes great strides for your health. Watch this video and give it a try today!

Lakers star helping kids get active, eat healthy

13 Aug

gasol foundation

Lettuce, watermelon and a fresh batch of herbs are growing at the Los Angeles Boys & Girls Club, and Lakers star Pau Gasol – as well as the American Heart Association – get an assist for making it happen.

The fruits and vegetables are part of an American Heart Association Teaching Garden that was planted at the club during the Gasol Foundation’s first annual Healthy Competition, an eight-week challenge between children in Los Angeles (where Pau plays) and Memphis (where his brother Marc stars for the Memphis Grizzlies).

The youngsters were encouraged to become healthier through physical activity and healthy eating. Planting a garden and teaching the kids the benefits of eating the harvest offers two lessons in one, which is the crux of this innovative program.

“What we’re doing is simple, elegant and fun. Kids can relate – and all the statistics show what changing eating habits can do,” said American Heart Association volunteer Kelly Meyer, the founder of the Teaching Gardens program. “We love working with athletes like Pau because they are very much a part of our message of being physically active and eating healthy foods. It’s a natural fit.”

Although the competition is over, the garden continues to grow. So will the lessons learned by the 27 children ages 6 to 15 who were part of the event – none of whom had ever even eaten a salad, said Randy Ryan, the American Heart Association’s manager of Teaching Gardens in Los Angeles.

Reblogged from American Heart Association blog. Click the link for the full story! 

Good News! Childhood Obesity may be Declining

6 Aug


After seeing childhood obesity rates soar over the past 30 years, there is finally some good news to report. The CDC released a report Tuesday that shows obesity rates among low-income children between the ages of 2 and 4 has dropped in 19 states and territories.

Although the declines were small in most cases, this definitely a sign of progress.

“It’s encouraging news but we’re very, very far from being out of the woods,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said. “The fight is far from over.”

We’re thrilled with the news and are excited about continuing to do our part to end childhood obesity for good.

To read the CDC’s full report click here: http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/ChildhoodObesity/index.html

Richardson Elementary celebrates Aetna sponsored American Heart Association Teaching Garden

7 Jun

richardson elementary

Students, staff and faculty at Richardson Elementary couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day, as they were joined by parent and community volunteers to celebrate the dedication of their American Heart Association Teaching Garden on Monday, June 3. The garden, sponsored by Aetna, is intended to serve as a nutritional learning tool and includes plants such as tomatoes, peppers and fresh herbs. The students will get the chance to nurture the garden all summer and see the results of their labor in fall when harvest time arrives.
The dedication began with a warm welcome from Principal, Julie Petruna, who thanked everyone for their participation. The highlight of the afternoon was when a third grade class recited a poem about gardening and a second grade class sang “You Are My Sunshine.” The dedication concluded with Richardson Elementary receiving a Teaching Garden plaque to display in their school, honoring their commitment to health.

“We are so excited for this opportunity to work with our students to educate them about the importance of making healthy choices within the context of the Teaching garden and its curriculum. The teachers and I hope this experience will inspire our student body to take the tools they learn from working together and put them to use for success in their future efforts,” said Principal at Richardson, Julie Petruna.

The American Heart Association Teaching Garden Program aims to teach elementary school students around the country the importance of healthy eating by providing hands-on learning experiences. With the rate of childhood obesity on the rise, the program’s focus is on teaching proper nutrition at an early age. By showing children that not all food comes from a can or package, it gives them knowledge that may help them make healthier choices as they get older.

“We are very proud to partner with Aetna and the team at Richardson Elementary to help bring a better understanding of healthy eating to our next generation. By adopting healthy nutrition patterns at an early age, we hope these students will grow up to share their knowledge of healthy eating with their families and friends,” said Ashley Smas, senior Heart Walk director with the American Heart Association.

Aetna has sponsored Teaching Gardens in five elementary schools across the nation, and Aetna nurses have given their time and volunteered at each location to help build the teaching gardens. Along with 10 planter boxes, Richardson will also receive items such as garden gloves, seed packets, trowels, cultivators, pruners, buckets, and a hose. The staff will receive a mini camcorder with an 8 GB SD card to help record and share the success of the garden with students, parents, staff and the community.

The American Heart Association has a 30 year history working with children and schools; currently, the association has an active relationship with nearly one-third (30,000) of the country’s schools. The Teaching Gardens program is part of a larger American Heart Association, My Heart. My Life. healthy living initiative, designed to help Americans understand what it means to be healthy, and to take action. For more information about the Teaching Gardens program and how you can participate, visit http://www.heart.org/teachinggardens or call 330-664-1905.

reblogged from the Cuyahoga Falls Patch 

A Veggie to Plant for Heart Health

18 Apr


It’s gardening season and it’s one of my favorite times of year.  It’s a proven way to get your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, but an important point is to first get them involved in gardening.  And as a mom to two kids, I am constantly trying to come up with new ways to encourage my kids to eat more fruits and vegetables through gardening. My kids each have their own likes and dislikes and each with a different willingness to try new things.  But a way to expand their likes and dislikes is to get them in the garden.  Here are some ways to start:

  • Grow a garden together.  My kids get excited about gardening because I get excited about gardening.  Kids will learn more from what you do than what you say to do.  And if you “do” gardening, they are going to want to do that with you too.  It’s never too late or early to start with your kids.  When my own kids were one year old, they were outside with me and as they grew, they wanted to be in the garden with me.  I still have a picture of my daughter “planting” her favorite vegetable in the garden at two years old. 
  • Design your garden together.  What are your kids into?  Legos, paper and crayons, cutting and designing with paper, or even computer games?  All of those methods can be used to design a garden.  The key is to find what they are interested in and use that as a platform to work together.  If you want to see how my kids used Legos to design our garden, I recently wrote about it on my blog.  Also, go to your local library and find kid-friendly gardening books with pictures.  One of my favorites is the American Grown book by First Lady Michelle Obama.  Using visuals can be very inspiring to anyone, especially children. 
  • How do you figure out what to grow?  You don’t need to start with a large garden, but when you are thinking about gardening, it’s a perfect time to take your kids with you to the local nursery and pick out seeds to grow together.  Start with foods they like to eat and grow ingredients from them, but also encourage them to try one new vegetable in the garden as an experiment.  And if they are old enough, let them come up with a plan for how to prepare it as a meal. 

One vegetable that has surprised my kids is Swiss chard.  It’s a dark, leafy green and a member of the beet family and it is packed with potassium for healthy hearts and blood pressure.  We have tried it in cheese quesadillas (just chop up the leaves and sprinkle over the cheese) as well Fruity Chardy Salad.  Both went over very well in our house – my kids were both amazed that they actually liked it!  But they would not have tried if we would not have planted it and we would not have planted it had I not suggested that we try a new vegetable in the garden.  It all starts with a little encouragement.

Fruity Chardy Salad

Estimated time: 15 minutes

Serves 4.


  • 6-8 Swiss chard leaves, torn
  • 8 fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 1/3 of a fresh cantaloupe, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry vinaigrette                       

Make it:

  1. Layer chard, strawberries and cantaloupe cubes on four separate plates.    
  2. Drizzle salad dressing over the top of the salads.

Here are some ways to involve your child in cooking this recipe:

  • Slice strawberries with plastic knife.
  • Slice cantaloupe with plastic knife.
  • Wash chard and dry it.
  • Tear chard.
  • Tossing ingredients together.

What can you get out and grow with your family?


Jen Haugen, RD, LD

Registered Dietitian and Mom to Riley and Emma

Check out her blog at http://jenhaugenrd.wordpress.com