Positive Changes Can Help Children Achieve Healthy Weight
American Dietetic Association Supports Childhood Obesity Awareness Month
Media Contact: Ryan O'Malley
800/877-1600, ext. 4769
CHICAGO – September has been proclaimed by Congress as the first National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. As part of its commitment to the total health of the American public, the American Dietetic Association encourages children and adults alike to focus on the countless benefits of healthful eating.
"ADA believes three components are necessary for healthy children: access to high-quality health care, food and nutrition and physical activity," said registered dietitian and ADA Spokesperson Melinda Johnson.
Childhood Obesity Awareness Month is being commemorated in September in large part because it is the month when most children return to school. "During September and all year long, ADA supports activities at the local, state and national levels that convey positive messages encouraging children to eat healthfully, engage in physical activity and achieve and maintain a healthy weight," Johnson said.
The American Dietetic Association's official position on local support for nutrition integrity in schools calls on schools and communities to work together to provide healthful and affordable meals for all children and to promote educational environments that help students learn and practice healthy behaviors for their entire lives.
Registered dietitian and ADA member Evelyn Crayton, EdD, RD, LD, a nationally recognized authority on health and nutrition disparities and assistant director of family and consumer science at Auburn University's Alabama Cooperative Extension, will participate in a Child Welfare Brain Trust event on childhood obesity prevention, to be held during Congressional Black Caucus Week later this month. Crayton is also a member of ADA's Board of Directors.
Among ADA's most successful initiatives is the ADA Foundation's RD Coach program, which is part of ADAF's Healthy Schools Partnership — a program designed to develop long-term solutions to the youth obesity epidemic. "RD Coaches offer a perfect example of registered dietitians doing what they do best: helping people, in this case children from underprivileged areas, apply sound food choices in their meal selections and teaching kids about balancing 'energy in and energy out,'" Johnson said. The Healthy Schools Partnership places registered dietitians in schools to work with physical education coaches to help children change eating behaviors with short, one-on-one coaching sessions while being physically active.
This fall, ADA and its Foundation are teaming with the National Dairy Council on a new consumer education collaboration called Kids Eat Right that will heighten awareness of child obesity and increase recognition of the RD as a nutrition authority by putting more registered dietitians in community and school settings. It will complement the National Dairy Council/National Football League's Fuel Up to Play 60 program, using the RD Coach model. "This program has enormous potential to make progress in positively encouraging children to eat healthy foods and become more active," Johnson said.
ADA's Women's Health practice group has nearly 1,000 members who help expecting mothers eat well during pregnancy and be successful in breastfeeding, both of which are linked to lower rates of childhood obesity. ADA's Pediatric Nutrition practice group consists of more than 3,000 ADA members, primarily registered dietitians, who are dedicated to the vital role of good nutrition in the growth and development of infants, children and adolescents. ADA's School Nutrition Services dietetic practice group has more than 1,100 members working in school districts, federal and state agencies, business and industry, and colleges and universities, all dedicated to the integrity and promotion of school meal programs and the advancement of sound nutrition for children.
As kids head back to school, Johnson offers some helpful ideas for parents to help their children eat well, stay active and maintain a healthy weight:
- Breakfast is a very important meal for growing children. Studies show that breakfast eaters tend to have higher school attendance rates, less tardiness and fewer hunger-induced stomach aches in the morning. Their overall test scores are higher, they concentrate better, solve problems more easily and have better muscle coordination. So whether they eat at home or at school, be sure your children eat a nutritious breakfast every day.
- If your children's school provides meals, take time to go over the menu with them and discuss how to choose a healthful and nutritious meal they will enjoy. Make sure the choices include whole grains, vegetables, fruits and low-fat or fat-free dairy at every meal.
- If you pack your children's lunch, take your kids grocery shopping with you and allow them to pick out healthy and colorful foods that they enjoy. Your children are much more likely to eat what you pack for them if they have picked it out themselves. Take advantage of different shapes, textures and colors to make the food more appealing.
- If your children are involved in after-school activities, pack a healthy snack they can eat beforehand. Fruit or vegetable slices, 100-percent fruit juice and whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese are healthy options that will give them the energy they need to make it to dinner.
- Talk to your children about how to handle food challenges such as special treats, food rewards, school snack bars and food bartering during lunch.
- Regular physical activity is also vital to your children's development. Not all children may like sports, but there are still plenty of ways they can get exercise on a daily basis at school and at home. In fact, involving the whole family is a great way to spend time together while getting the physical activity everyone needs.
"Most importantly, talk to your children," Johnson said. "Learn the foods they like. Teach them about the foods they need for their growing bodies. Find ways together to make sure they have the knowledge and ability to eat healthy and tasty foods at every meal."
More information on helping children eat well and be healthy is available on ADA's website.
The American Dietetic Association Foundation is a 501(c)3 charity devoted exclusively to nutrition and dietetics. It funds scholarships and awards, public awareness and research projects and ADA strategic initiatives, and is the largest provider of scholarships and awards in the field of dietetics. The Foundation's mission is funding the future of the dietetics profession through research and education. Visit the ADA Foundation at www.eatright.org/foundation.
The American Dietetic Association is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. ADA is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit ADA at www.eatright.org.