Posts Tagged ‘health & school’


Heart-Healthy Ingredients to Pack in Your Children’s Lunchboxes

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
In honor of American Heart Month, we’ve been covering some matters of the heart, including how to promote heart health in our children. Today, we’re talking about packing heart-healthy lunches to fuel their minds, bodies, and spirits all throughout the school day.
Check out these 10 ingredients to rotate through your child’s lunchbox to keep their tickers in tip-top shape.
Fruits and Veggies
An absolute must for a heart-healthy meal, fruits and veggies should take up the most tummy space.
Apples
There really is truth to the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are high in fiber and vitamin C and contain lots of potassium, too. And they taste great and fulfill that need for something crunchy and sweet.
Bonus tips: Pre-sliced apples are perfect for little hands. To make lunch prep a breeze, invest in an apple slicer ($5-10 online and in various stores). Put apple slices in a baggie or reusable container with some lemon or lime juice to keep them tasting fresh and from turning brown.
Bananas
Another good one for the lunchbox is the banana. Like apples, they have lots of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. Unlike the apple, you can have a good bit of fun pretending to be a monkey while you munch your lunch.
Oranges
Lower in calories than apples and bananas, oranges are loaded with vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. They’re also a good alternative for kids who prefer their fruit sliced and peeled for them. Unlike apples and bananas, they don’t turn that “icky” brown color when sliced before serving.
Pears
Higher in vitamin C than a banana and more fiber and potassium than an apple, pears are another crunchy, sweet alternative for the healthy lunchbox crowd. Pears are also slightly softer and easier to chew than apples, which can be a mouth-pleaser for younger children.
Baby Carrots
These little orange beauties are chockablock full of vitamin A and are fun to eat both plain and with a healthy dip (see recipe below!). Skip the chips and dip these babies! Crunchy, sweet, and oh-so-good for you, too.
Broccoli
Raw, one cup of broccoli florets contains almost as much vitamin C as an orange. If your kids prefer cooked broccoli, lightly steam the florets and then chill them in the fridge. Steaming takes away some of the bite of raw broccoli and makes it easier for picky eaters to get their much-needed greens.
Cherry or Grape Tomatoes
Full of vitamin C and really fun to pop in your mouth, tiny tomatoes make another excellent lunchbox add. Pair them up with a tasty yogurt dip and you double the fun and the taste.
Protein and Fat
Two very important nutrients to pack in the lunchbox are protein and fat. While fat in general doesn’t have the best reputation, healthy amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat are integral to a heart-healthy diet. Try these ingredients:
Low-fat cheese
No need to go overboard, but a serving-sized wedge of a tasty low-fat cheese gives your child protein, calcium, and a yummy lunch all in one.
Tuna
Skip the overly processed lunchmeats and go for heart-healthy tuna instead, which offers protein and the healthy fats mentioned above. If your child isn’t a fan of fish, choose the least-processed lunch meats possible or bake and slice free-range chicken and turkey breasts for delicious homemade sandwiches.
Tip: Choose only 100% whole grain bread made with the least ingredients possible. Skip brands that include extra sugar in their recipe, or go all-in and make your own bread.
Unsalted and/or Raw Nuts and Seeds
Whether it’s a serving of sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, or other wonderful crunchies, nuts and seeds add protein, healthy fats and variety to any school lunch box. Remember those apples, bananas, and pears from above? Wholesome peanut butter (the only ingredient you need is peanuts!) with a sprinkle of cinnamon makes for a tasty treat.
Whole Grains
We can’t forget the benefits of wholesome whole grains! Avoid processed flour products and go for 100% whole grain items that maintain the healthy components of the grain.
Crunchy breadsticks
Forget the high-fat, high-sodium chips, pretzels, and crackers. Pack yummy, crunchy homemade breadsticks instead. (If following this recipe, skip the all-purpose flour and use 100% whole wheat only. Choose a whole wheat baking flour, which will maintain a lighter, more pleasing texture.) Thick and chewy or thin and crispy, the choice is yours. Flavor them with herbs, garlic and onion, cinnamon, fruit—anything your kids like. Some homemade tomato sauce provides a yummy and heart-healthy dip on the side.
Brown Rice, Quinoa, or Oatmeal
These wholesome whole grains can be flavored any way you like them and fill up little tummies with fiber that keeps them energized all day long.
Healthy Yogurt Dip Recipe
Ingredients:
1 cup plain Greek yogurt like Fage (wholesome Greek yogurt has no extra sugar and lots of healthy protein)
1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion
3 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill (or use dried dill, but less)
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
It’s so easy—just mix everything in a small bowl and chill overnight. Store the dip in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.
Giving your kids healthy, appetizing choices for their lunchboxes ensures that they’re receiving support for healthy eating habits even when they are away from home. Some other good-for-you lunch choices are hard-boiled eggs, unsalted popcorn, and raisins/other no-sugar-added dried fruits.
And don’t forget to help quench little thirsts. Good choices for a reusable water bottle are unsweetened juice, water, and milk (add a little wholesome cocoa powder and vanilla extract for a chocolaty treat).
Lunch time doesn’t have to be boring, unhealthy, or stick to the same old routine. Give your kids a heart-healthy treasure chest of goodies they’ll be excited to munch on every day. While you’re at it, pack these wholesome ingredients in your own lunch, too!

In honor of American Heart Month, we’ve been covering some matters of the heart, including how to promote heart health in our children. Today, we’re talking about packing heart-healthy lunches to fuel their minds, bodies, and spirits all throughout the school day.

Check out these 10 ingredients to rotate through your child’s lunchbox to keep their tickers in tip-top shape.

Fruits and Veggies

An absolute must for a heart-healthy meal, fruits and veggies should take up the most tummy space.

Apples

There really is truth to the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are high in fiber and vitamin C and contain lots of potassium, too. And they taste great and fulfill that need for something crunchy and sweet.

Bonus tips: Pre-sliced apples are perfect for little hands. To make lunch prep a breeze, invest in an apple slicer ($5-10 online and in various stores). Put apple slices in a baggie or reusable container with some lemon or lime juice to keep them tasting fresh and from turning brown.

Bananas

Another good one for the lunchbox is the banana. Like apples, they have lots of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. Unlike the apple, you can have a good bit of fun pretending to be a monkey while you munch your lunch.

Oranges

Lower in calories than apples and bananas, oranges are loaded with vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. They’re also a good alternative for kids who prefer their fruit sliced and peeled for them. Unlike apples and bananas, they don’t turn that “icky” brown color when sliced before serving.

Pears

Higher in vitamin C than a banana and more fiber and potassium than an apple, pears are another crunchy, sweet alternative for the healthy lunchbox crowd. Pears are also slightly softer and easier to chew than apples, which can be a mouth-pleaser for younger children.

Baby Carrots

These little orange beauties are chockablock full of vitamin A and are fun to eat both plain and with a healthy dip (see recipe below!). Skip the chips and dip these babies! Crunchy, sweet, and oh-so-good for you, too.

Broccoli

Raw, one cup of broccoli florets contains almost as much vitamin C as an orange. If your kids prefer cooked broccoli, lightly steam the florets and then chill them in the fridge. Steaming takes away some of the bite of raw broccoli and makes it easier for picky eaters to get their much-needed greens.

Cherry or Grape Tomatoes

Full of vitamin C and really fun to pop in your mouth, tiny tomatoes make another excellent lunchbox add. Pair them up with a tasty yogurt dip and you double the fun and the taste.

Protein and Fat

Two very important nutrients to pack in the lunchbox are protein and fat. While fat in general doesn’t have the best reputation, healthy amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat are integral to a heart-healthy diet. Try these ingredients:

Low-fat cheese

No need to go overboard, but a serving-sized wedge of a tasty low-fat cheese gives your child protein, calcium, and a yummy lunch all in one.

Tuna

Skip the overly processed lunchmeats and go for heart-healthy tuna instead, which offers protein and the healthy fats mentioned above. If your child isn’t a fan of fish, choose the least-processed lunch meats possible or bake and slice free-range chicken and turkey breasts for delicious homemade sandwiches.

Tip: Choose only 100% whole grain bread made with the least ingredients possible. Skip brands that include extra sugar in their recipe, or go all-in and make your own bread.

Unsalted and/or Raw Nuts and Seeds

Whether it’s a serving of sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, or other wonderful crunchies, nuts and seeds add protein, healthy fats and variety to any school lunch box. Remember those apples, bananas, and pears from above? Wholesome peanut butter (the only ingredient you need is peanuts!) with a sprinkle of cinnamon makes for a tasty treat.

Whole Grains

We can’t forget the benefits of wholesome whole grains! Avoid processed flour products and go for 100% whole grain items that maintain the healthy components of the grain.

Crunchy breadsticks

Forget the high-fat, high-sodium chips, pretzels, and crackers. Pack yummy, crunchy homemade breadsticks instead. (If following this recipe, skip the all-purpose flour and use 100% whole wheat only. Choose a whole wheat baking flour, which will maintain a lighter, more pleasing texture.) Thick and chewy or thin and crispy, the choice is yours. Flavor them with herbs, garlic and onion, cinnamon, fruit—anything your kids like. Some homemade tomato sauce provides a yummy and heart-healthy dip on the side.

Brown Rice, Quinoa, or Oatmeal

These wholesome whole grains can be flavored any way you like them and fill up little tummies with fiber that keeps them energized all day long.

Healthy Yogurt Dip Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt like Fage (wholesome Greek yogurt has no extra sugar and lots of healthy protein)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion
  • 3 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill (or use dried dill, but less)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

It’s so easy—just mix everything in a small bowl and chill overnight. Store the dip in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.

Giving your kids healthy, appetizing choices for their lunchboxes ensures that they’re receiving support for healthy eating habits even when they are away from home. Some other good-for-you lunch choices are hard-boiled eggs, unsalted popcorn, and raisins/other no-sugar-added dried fruits.

And don’t forget to help quench little thirsts. Good choices for a reusable water bottle are unsweetened juice, water, and milk (add a little wholesome cocoa powder and vanilla extract for a chocolaty treat).

Lunch time doesn’t have to be boring, unhealthy, or stick to the same old routine. Give your kids a heart-healthy treasure chest of goodies they’ll be excited to munch on every day. While you’re at it, pack these wholesome ingredients in your own lunch, too!

NFL Fuel Up to Play 60 Funding Opportunity

Monday, January 10th, 2011

nfl-logo-play-60Fuel Up to Play 60 is a new organization aiming to help schools help themselves by getting kids to focus on a combination of physical activity and healthy nutrition choices on a daily basis. Is your school planning on or already participating in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program sponsored by the NFL? If so, they are offering a new grant program to help jump start your school’s individual program. Earn your team up to $3,000 in grant money to use on a customized Fuel Up to Play 60 program of your own design. With the playoffs in progress and Super Bowl in sight, our youth are invested in football more than ever. The NFL will allocate marketing to promote the new program to kids while they are watching their favorite players on TV or at the stadium. Then when the players visit their schools or hold community events, the kids will begin to understand the importance of a healthy and active lifestyle.

There are several unique aspects of this program that set it above the rest. Numerous attempts have been made in the past to improve our kids’ health and fitness but the obesity problems still remain. Something different must be done, and the Fuel Up to Play 60 program is ready to take on the task. Here are several unique characteristics of the program:

  • For Youth, By Youth: Youth helped design, test, and implement the program. They have been involved in every aspect of the process, making it an authentic experience that all youth are willing to adopt at their own schools.
  • Comprehensive Approach: Too many programs focus solely on one aspect of youth health, either physical activity or nutrition. Fuel Up to Play 60 treats the two as one in the same, taking a holistic approach to solving our youth’s obesity dilemma.
  • Influential Partners: Our youth look up to the NFL and its players to set a good example for them. Fuel Up to Play 60 brings health to the attention of kids by capitalizing on those players’s influence. Throughout the season and leading up to the Super Bowl, the NFL leaders will spread the message of the importance of proper nutrition and daily physical activity. To logistically help the NFL, the National Dairy Council will use their resources and relationship with the education system to supply proper nutrition information and materials.
  • Customized Programs: Fuel Up to Play 60 doesn’t have a set of required action that needs to be taken by each school. Instead, they have several principles and suggestions, but let the youth decide for themselves and make the program their own. Each school is given the autonomy to decide what is best for them and let the youth implement it how they see fit.
  • Broad Reach: Last year alone, the program reached over 60,000 schools and 36 million youth. With new funding opportunities, Fuel Up to Play 60 should be able to touch every youth in the United States in the next couple of years.

Funding Opportunities: All K-12 schools are eligible for the new funding opportunities. This can be a great resource for schools weakened by heavy budget cuts, but who still want to make big changes in their student’s lives. Every student deserves the same access to fitness and healthy food choices and the NFL, Dairy Farmers, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and private donors are all stepping up to the plate to help out financially. There are two different ways your school can earn funding for your Fuel Up to Play 60 team.

  1. The first is a competitive, nationwide grant available for schools enrolled in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program. These funds can be used for numerous aspects in jump starting your team’s program.
  2. The Child Nutrition and Fitness Initiative Breakfast Grant program is a grant that will provide funds for increasing the nutritious value of meals available at school, specifically alternative breakfast options.

What are the funds for? The broad answer is to help reduce obesity by helping youth implement programs focusing on nutrition and physical activity. Specifically, the funds can be used for a wide variety of things. Each school must present a detailed budget of what your school’s team will spend the funds on, but there are numerous options for customization. The categories on the application include: promotional materials, giveaways to encourage participation, staff/professional involvement, foodservice materials and equipment, physical activities materials and equipment, nutrition educational materials, and other.

If you’ve been looking for funds to implement SPARK curriculum, training or equipment in your school this is the perfect opportunity! Or, if you already have SPARK in your school, you can use these funds to expand and extend your program(s)!

More Fuel Up to Play 60 Resources:

Good luck!

Healthy Holiday Recipes

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Holiday Pudding Cups

A light delicious treat which is fruitful, festive, and requires very little work. Plus it is in its own dish, so less clean up after a holiday party.

Ingredients:

  • 1pkg Philo dough (thawed)
  • 1pkg JELLO instant vanilla pudding (regular or sugar free)
  • Milk (for pudding)
  • ¼ cup Pomegranate
  • ¼ cup Strawberry (sliced)
  • ¼ cup Blueberry
  • ¼ cup Kiwi (diced)
  • Powder Sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Lightly spray muffin pan with cooking spray (for appetizer style use the miniature cup cake pans)
  3. Roll Philo dough into 1/8 inch thick sheets
  4. Cut dough into squares, so that when it’s laid into the muffin pan it will hangover ½ inch
  5. Gently press squares into muffin pan, shaping edges to form rims ¼ inch high
  6. Bake for 18 minutes or until pastry has a golden color. (Tip – for a glossy shine on the pastry cup lightly glaze beaten egg onto the top)
  7. Let cool
  8. Mix up the vanilla pudding per the JELLO package instructions
  9. Once the pastry cups have cooled, spoon pudding into each cup.
  10. Then top with a piece of each fruit and lightly dust with powder sugar.
  11. Serve chilled.
  12. ENJOY!

Stuffing with Sage and Chives

Ingredients:

  • 1 spray(s) cooking spray
  • 12 slice(s) whole-wheat bread, cubed*
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp light butter
  • 1 cup(s) onion(s), diced
  • 3 stalk(s) (medium) celery, diced
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp dried sage
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 cup(s) canned chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp chives, fresh, chopped

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat a 4-quart shallow baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Arrange bread cubes on a large ungreased baking sheet in a single layer (use 2 baking sheets if there’s not enough room). Bake until lightly toasted, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove bread from oven and set aside; leave oven set to 350ºF.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil and butter together for 1 to 2 minutes. Add onion and celery; sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Add thyme, sage, salt and pepper; stir to coat. Cook until herbs are fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Transfer onion mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add bread, broth and chives; toss to combine. Spoon mixture into prepared baking dish and cover with foil; bake 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until top is golden brown, about 15 minutes more. Divide into 8 pieces and serve. Yields 1 piece per serving.

Notes:

  • Leave the bread bag open and somewhat uncovered for 1 to 2 days (at room temperature) before making the recipe.
  • Feel free to substitute your favorite bread, such as whole grain, sourdough or a light variety..
  • For added flavor, you can also add about 1 cup of diced Granny Smith or McIntosh apples to the stuffing
  • You can make this stuffing in advance and bake it just before serving. The stuffing will last up to 3 days in the refrigerator or 3 months in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before baking as directed.

Servings:  8

Preparation Time:  15 min

Cooking Time:  45 min

Level of Difficulty:  Easy

Enjoy!

Sharing the Good News…

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

I want to share an enjoyable moment with you.  Recently, I was in Sacramento to film a discussion on physical activity promotion in schools organized by the California Department of Public Health’s Project LEAN.  When the video is posted online, I’ll let you know.

While we were waiting in the “green room” before the filming I had inspiring conversations with my fellow panelists whom I had just met.  A former teacher of the year who works in a small town was talking about his efforts to improve physical education in his new position at district manager of physical education, health, and sports.  One of his goals was to use a common curriculum so students would benefit from a cohesive approach throughout their time in his district.  He also wanted teachers in elementary and middle schools to communicate about physical education using the same terms and principles.  I was pleased when he started talking about SPARK as his curriculum of choice.  Beyond that, he saw SPARK as a partner in his efforts.  He was enthusiastic about the support he received in planning his strategy, the quality of the training and the trainers, and that the curricula had consistent principles across levels applied in an age-appropriate way.  He was really surprised when I told him I am a co-founder of SPARK.  He thanked me for starting such a great program, and I thanked him for embracing SPARK.

The other panelist was a superintendent of a California school district.  Though she was not a PE teacher, she was highly committed to coordinated school health and very familiar with SPARK.  It was a treat to hear her impressions about SPARK and her appreciation for the efforts of the SPARK staff to support her efforts to improve the health of children in her district.  She had seen SPARK benefit those students, who are largely low-income and Latino.  Based on her experience, she recommends SPARK to others, and what could be more influential to school officials than a recommendation from a superintendent?

It was truly heart-warming to hear these unsolicited testimonials about SPARK.  These school leaders did not know my connection with SPARK when they enthused about it, so I know it was totally genuine.  This a good moment to thank the SPARK staff for their daily and nightly efforts to make physical education GREAT and to improve children’s health.

Jim Sallis

www.drjamessallis.sdsu.edu

Schools Add Skateboarding to Kids Classes

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Not too long ago, schools and city councils across the United States were at odds with skateboarders. We’ve all seen the signs banning skateboarding from school and public premises: “Absolutely No Skateboarding,” “No Skateboarding, Biking or Rollerblading Allowed,” etc. Some places, such as Center City Philadelphia, have gone so far as to ban skateboarding from all public property, including sidewalks! Yet skateboarding has still remained a very popular sport amongst children and young adults. And recently, many schools have actually introduced skateboarding to their Physical Education curriculum.

No_Skateboarding3x4
(Image Source)

Schools across the United States are revamping their P.E. curriculum and exchanging traditional competitive team sports for more alternative and individualized sports such as skateboarding. Advocates for the new P.E. claim that sports such as skateboarding appeal to children who aren’t natural athletes and who don’t enjoy traditional competitive, full-contact sports, for instance, soccer and football. One statistic found that as few as 10% of school-aged children are natural athletes who enjoy competitive contact sports. Advocates claim that exposing these children to a sport like skateboarding promotes a more active lifestyle inside and outside of the classroom. Children who aren’t interested in competitive sports are more likely to go home and participate in a more individualized activity, like skateboarding, once they have been exposed to it in school.

There is a huge push for schools to promote active lifestyles in young children because child obesity is still a very serious concern in the United States. The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia reports that almost 20% of children between the ages of 6 and 19 are considered obese. In addition, the overall child obesity rate has tripled over the last thirty years. A healthy lifestyle includes not only healthy eating habits but also regular physical activity. Because of the child obesity epidemic, many schools have introduced health classes that stress good eating habits. Children must also be taught how to integrate exercise into their daily routine. Therefore it is essential that children are introduced to a variety of sports—skateboarding included—at an early age in order to find sports that appeal most to them.

kid-with-skateboard
(Image Source)

This new P.E. program has been introduced to a variety of schools across the country, including schools in New Jersey, New York, California and Minnesota. It has been met with rave reviews by both P.E. instructors and students. Skateboarding has been a particularly successful part of the new program. Teachers who are in their twenties and thirties most likely grew up with skateboarding and so the program is just as exciting for young teachers as it is for students.

Most importantly, skateboarding is a great way to exercise and have fun at the same time. It has been proven to increase balance, agility, coordination, and reaction time. It specifically targets the leg muscles and core muscles. More advanced skaters who are able to perform tricks and grabs also use their arm and back muscles. Skateboarding for twenty to thirty minutes is a great form of cardiovascular activity that increases the heart rate while burning calories and developing muscle. Perhaps one of the best side effects of skateboarding that teachers have noted is improved self-esteem in children as they get better and better. Beginning students, who could barely stand on a skateboard on day one, are skating laps around the gymnasium by the end of the program. In the process of learning to skateboard, students learn that hard work and perseverance pay off.

kid-skateboarding

(Image Source)

One of the main drawbacks to introducing a skateboarding program to a school is the cost. Many schools have been faced with tough budgets over the last few years. And unfortunately, safely learning how to skateboard requires quite a bit of equipment: skateboards, helmets, wrist guards, elbow pads and knee pads. Skate Pass, a Colorado-based company, offers skateboarding “curriculum kits” for approximately $3,000 which include enough equipment for twenty children.  The kit includes skateboards that are specifically designed with young children in mind, and wheels that won’t mark up gymnasium floors. They also provide specific curriculums for beginner, intermediate and advanced students. Schools that have found money in their budgets and implemented a skateboarding curriculum of some kind have found that students’ reactions are incredibly positive.

Once viewed as a troublesome and meaningless activity, skateboarding is now being recognized as an engaging form of physical activity for children. It is an effective form of exercise and builds self-esteem in school-aged children. P.E. teachers are recognizing that competitive full-contact sports don’t appeal to everyone, and they are beginning to introduce alternative programs that promote individuality. Although the cost of implementing a skateboarding program is quite high, the results seem to outweigh the financial burden. Students are more engaged in physical activity, and they learn that exercise can be fun.

SPARK Supports White House Task Force Report on Childhood Obesity

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

In February, First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Let’s Move! campaign to solve the childhood obesity epidemic within one generation. As part of this effort, President Barack Obama established the Task Force on Childhood Obesity to develop and implement an inter agency plan that details a coordinated strategy, identifies key benchmarks, and outlines an action plan to end the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.

The report, titled Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation, includes Early Childhood Education, Physical Education and Physical Activity recommendations. SPARK is already well aligned with the recommendations in this report!

Early Childhood Education

“Young children need opportunities to be physically active through play and other activities. Physical activity assists children in obtaining and improving fine and gross motor skill development, coordina¬tion, balance and control, hand-eye coordination, strength, dexterity, and flexibility—all of which are necessary for children to reach developmental milestones.
Preschool years, in particular, are crucial for obesity prevention due to the timing of the development of fat tissue, which typically occurs from ages 3-7…. Features of the child care center environment, including policies regarding activity and provider training, as well as the presence of portable and fixed play equipment, influence the amount of physical activity children engage in while at child care.”

  • SPARK Early Childhood is designed specially for children ages 3-5 years to increase physical activity and development
  • SPARK EC was one of the first large-scale, urban efforts to evaluate a comprehensive physical activity program for the 3-5 age group. The project concluded in winter 2004, and showed the SPARK EC program was very well received by the Head Start teachers, increased students’ moderate to vigorous activity levels to over 50% of class time, and improved the number of minutes children engaged in activity throughout the day.

School-Based Approaches to Increasing Physical Activity

“Schools are a key setting to focus on, given the significant portion of time children spend there. Schools can undertake a combination of strategies and approaches to help children be more active including:
– Creating infrastructure and policies that increase access to and encourage physical activity for all students;
– Collecting valid and reliable data and using analytical tools and systems to understand student needs and fitness levels, and promoting approaches that are effective in changing physical activity behaviors and, ultimately, health outcomes;
– Maintaining strong physical education (PE) programs that engage students in moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 50% of PE class time;
– Providing a variety of activities and specific skills so that students can be physically active not just during class but throughout the day and year; and
– Providing qualified school professionals who are trained in teaching methods to engage stu¬dents in PE, including for students who face greater barriers to activity.”

  • SPARK physical education and activity programs have been proven to increase levels of MVPA, physical fitness, motor skill development, student enjoyment of the program and academic achievement
  • SPARK was recently identified as a successful model for combating childhood obesity in the report, “Fighting Obesity: What Works, What’s Promising” by the HSC Foundation. The report speaks of SPARK’s history, practice, and methods. SPARK was the ONLY program recommended for physical education AND physical activity.
  • SPARK is the ONLY National Institute of Health (NIH) researched program available providing coordinated curriculum, training, follow up support, and equipment for Pre-K through 12th grade teachers.
  • A Child Trends report titled “What Works for the Prevention and Treatment of Obesity Among Children”, highlights SPARK as a program that has proven to increase physical activity among students.

Physical Education

“Physical Education (PE) is considered the cornerstone of a school-based comprehensive physical activity program. It provides the basis and opportunity for young people to gain the knowledge and skills needed to maintain physically active lifestyles throughout childhood and into adulthood. A quality PE program can increase student participation in physical activity, increase their physical fitness, and enhance their understanding about the purpose and methods of physical activity. Participation in daily PE is associated with an increased likelihood of participating regularly in moderate to vigorous physical activity.”

  • SPARK Physical Education is an award-winning, research-based program that has been proven to increase activity levels, knowledge, skills, and fitness. SPARK elementary physical education is the ONLY nationally-disseminated program that positively affects ALL of these student outcomes:
    • Academic Achievement
    • Activity levels (moderate to vigorous surpasses 50% of class time)
    • Fitness achievement
    • Sport Skills development
    • Enjoyment of PE
  • SPARK’s the only PE program that has data to show students statistically significantly increase their Fitness gram scores.
  • SPARK activities can be integrated throughout the school day to help your school provide physical education daily

Nutrition Education

“More, and better, nutrition education is needed in many schools. While approximately 75% of schools require nutrition education as part of health curriculum requirements, the time spent on nutrition and dietary behavior has declined in recent years, and funding has been limited. Many teachers are not equipped with the skills and knowledge to integrate and promote nutrition education into their classroom curricula. Research has shown that nutrition education interventions, if well designed and effectively implemented can improve dietary behaviors.”

  • SPARK has teamed up with Healthy Kids Challenge and Healthy Lifestyle Choices to provide nutrition and health education curriculum and training programs
  • Healthy Kids Challenge is a nationally recognized non-profit led by an exemplary team of registered, licensed dietitians with many years of school, program, and community wellness experience
  • Healthy Lifestyle Choices curriculum is flexible and provides a variety of scheduling and implementation options for busy elementary teachers

Q&A with Healthy Kids Challenge

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

January is finally here, and with it comes the usual list of well-intentioned New Years resolutions. For many of you, that means attempting to eat more nutritiously and live a healthier life, and here at SPARK we’re no different. But what about our students? Do we really believe they’re making the same healthy commitments? And if not, how can we ensure we create a healthier 2010 for them as well?

Well, we thought we’d enlist the help of our partner organization, Healthy Kids Challenge (HKC), to get some advice and answers on this topic.


Q: What evidence is out there to show why it is important to teach/promote healthy nutrition?

A: Many studies show a strong link between nutrition, physical activity, and academic success. A report from Action for Healthy Kids titled The Learning Connection is an excellent resource. (Get this version of the report as a powerpoint presentation and share it with others!) The link is just what you’d expect: Students who are well-nourished perform better, and students who are not well-nourished have weaker academic performance and score lower on standardized tests.

For example, we know research has shown increased participation in school breakfast programs is associated with increased academic test scores. In fact, eating breakfast is so important all year (not just right before testing times) that it is one of our 6 core healthy behaviors for which we’ve developed a theme, Breakfast GO Power!, and lessons/ideas for everyday fun learning.

Q: If I ask parents to bring in a healthy snack, what would be some recommendations of what they could provide?

A: First, I’d have you define for parents what is considered a “healthy snack.” Then list some healthy choices as examples. Consider getting the kids’ input – they will be more likely to eat if they’ve helped choose what is offered.

Healthy Snack How-To:

  • Choose snacks low in added fat and sugar – Think about More or Less! All foods fit when you choose MORE fruits and veggies and LESS sugary and high fat foods.
  • Recognize a healthy portion size – Check serving size on the label, and amounts of fat and sugar per serving: items should contain no more than 5 grams of fat or sugar per serving. Measure a serving to check it out!
  • Be aware of hunger levels –Are there distractions such as TV or videos while the kids will be eating? It’s easier for people of any age to keep from overeating if you eliminate distractions. Adding a little bit of protein to your snack will help kids stay full and focused.

HKC Top 10 Healthy Snack Choices
½ cup fresh fruit – with low-fat yogurt dip
½ cup vegetables – with low-fat dressing dip
5 whole grain crackers – with salsa or bean dip
1 cup whole grain cereal – with 8 oz. skim milk
3 cups popcorn – with 1 oz. nuts (10 almonds or 15 peanuts)
1 oz. low-fat cheese – with 1 thin slice lean meat and whole grain roll
8 oz. fat-free flavored yogurt – with cut-up fresh fruit added
1/3 cup low-fat cottage cheese – with pineapple chunks
1 oz. nuts (10 almonds or 15 peanuts) – with ¼ cup raisins
1 Tbsp peanut butter – with celery sticks

Q: Why is it important to eat more fruits & vegetables?

A: Less than 25% of school children (grades 9-12) and adults eat the recommended servings of fruits and veggies a day. (CDC, Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey, 2007). Obesity levels are lowest among those who have high intakes of fruits and veggies.

Eating more fruits and vegetables will ensure you get a great variety of vitamins, minerals, and fiber needed for good health. Fruits and veggies are also the only source of phytochemicals, which give them their vibrant colors, and give us special protection against diseases.

For a simple send-home activity click here and explore the “For Parents” section of our Fit and Fun Families Toolkit.

Q: Which is healthier, a burger or a salad, and why?

A: Well, it depends. We really need to look closer at serving sizes and what you might have added to them before eating them.

The burger will have more protein, but it will also have extra calories and saturated fat. Is your burger larger than ¼ lb? Does it have cheese or bacon? All of these add more calories and fat. But I put lettuce and tomato and onions on it, you say? Those healthy fixins don’t amount to even one serving of vegetables – think again.

The salad will be loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, but did you also “load” it with your favorite dressing? What about cheese, bacon bits, or croutons? If you add all these toppings, you’ve added not only calories and saturated fat, but salt as well.

Fix your salad right, or order it right, and you’ll be making the healthier choice. Get your choice of dressing on the side, and dip your fork in it before getting a bite of salad. You’ll eat less and still enjoy the flavor. Add vegetables as toppings instead of the other high-calorie choices. In this case, the salad is the healthier choice with less saturated fat and fewer calories than a quarter-pound burger. The burger, by the way, has the same amount of saturated fat as a third of a cup of ranch dressing.

Q: What is the difference between all the different types of fat (saturated, unsaturated, trans fat)?

A:
1. All fats and oils are a mixture of saturated fat and unsaturated fats.
2. Solid fats contain more saturated fats and/or trans fats than oils.
3. Oils contain more unsaturated fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Solid Fats = more saturated and/or trans fats:
Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature. Some solid fats are butter, stick margarine, and shortening. Foods high in solid fats include many cheeses, creams, ice creams, ground beef, bacon, and poultry skin. Trans fats can be found in many cakes, cookies, crackers, margarines, and microwave popcorns. Foods containing partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils usually contain trans fats.

Oils = more unsaturated fats:
Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature, high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and low in saturated fats. Some common oils are canola oil, corn oil, and olive oil. Foods that are mainly oil include mayonnaise, salad dressings, and soft (tub or squeeze) margarine with no trans fats.

Choose Oils
Saturated fats and trans fats tend to raise LDL “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood, which in turn increases the risk for heart disease. To lower risk for heart disease, cut back on foods containing saturated fats and trans fats.

Most of the fats you eat should be polyunsaturated (PUFA) or monounsaturated (MUFA) fats. Fish, nut, and vegetable oils are the major source of MUFAs and PUFAs in the diet. These oils do not raise LDL “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood. PUFAs contain some fatty acids that are necessary for health—called “essential fatty acids.” In addition, oils are the major source of vitamin E in typical American diets.

For more information, visit www.mypyramid.gov.

Q: What does vitamin A do for you?

A: Vitamin A is essential for healthy eyes, healthy skin, and keeping your immune system strong. It is an essential nutrient, meaning your body cannot create it, so you must get it from your diet. Dark green and orange veggies have the highest vitamin A content. Choose these: broccoli, spinach, collard greens, mango, carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin.

Q: Why are some people allergic to nuts?

A: First you need to understand some allergy basics. I have an excellent resource to recommend for the answer you need, which is KidsHealth.org. According to them, “ An allergic reaction happens when someone’s immune system mistakenly believes that something harmless, such as a tree nut or peanut, is actually harmful. The immune system responds by creating specific antibodies to proteins in that food.” The following link will explain allergies, and also go into nut allergies in particular. If you need more information, let me know!
Click Here.

Q: When purchasing bread, what should you look for?

A:

  • Whole Grains on the ingredient list.
    • The key word is “whole”. It must say “whole wheat flour”, for example. Words such as “enriched wheat flour” and just “wheat flour” indicate it is NOT whole grain.
    • The first ingredient listed is present in the largest amount. If the first ingredient doesn’t have the word “whole” included, then it is not truly a whole grain bread. The front of the package may claim “made with whole grains”, but read the ingredient list carefully!
  • Calories, serving size, and fiber on the nutrition label.
    • Is a serving 1 slice of bread or 2 slices? You can get whole grain breads that range from 70 calories per serving up to almost 200 calories per serving. Read carefully and know what you are getting in a serving!
    • 2-3 grams of fiber per serving is a healthier choice. Just be sure to check what the serving size is. 3 grams of fiber per slice is much different than 3 grams per 2 slices! Eating more fiber aids digestion and helps you feel full longer.

Q: How much sugar is in a can of soda?

A: There are 10 tsp of sugar or 40 grams in a 12-oz can of soda. Help kids do a Drink Think using our free downloadable activity pages.