Saturday, February 18, 2012


I was having a long conversation with my son's preschool music teachers and we were discussing students being active or lack-there-of.  Sadly, they shared with me that many kids don't want to "play" at recess or outside play time.  I knew this was true for some elementary school kids, because I saw first hand that kids would rather just sit and visit than play tag, chase or 4 square!  This brought our conversation to the kids' lunches.  The music teachers actually see what a lot of the kids pack in their lunches from day to day (which they say is mostly junk food!)and they also discuss healthy foods-which I think is AWESOME!  They said they asked the class the other day, "who has fruit in their lunch?" and all of the kids raised their hands.  They were so proud and when asked them to hold up or tell what fruit was in their lunch, 
12 out of the 17 kids held up FRUIT SNACKS...what??

With childhood obesity rates at an all-time high, these kids are thinking fruit snacks are nutritious?  Oh no.
I know that I overly stress the importance of healthy eating and good health in our house, but it's scary what we're dealing with.  Don't you agree?  
I was one of those unhealthy children, the one that wanted to be lazy and gossip at recess, never participate in P.E for fear of embarrassment.  I was the kid standing in line for snacks at the snack bar, which consisted of cheese sticks and pizza!  Blah, makes me crazy just thinking about it.    My mom was a single, working parent trying to do the best she could, but I think her and I could have BOTH done a better job with my health as a child/teen.  There are no guarantees and we can only try to teach our children to be healthy and lead a healthy lifestyle.  I just hope I am giving these boys the tools to help them find healthy living much earlier in life than I did.  

I know that living in Texas, born and raised, I have found that we have a huge problem with portions around here.  Everything really is BIGGER in Texas, sad but true.  There are many families around here that lead healthy lifestyles and make good decisions when it comes to good health for their family, so I'm not saying we're all unhealthy.  But I've definitely noticed a trend that's growing.  I stood out like a sore thumb when I was heavy as a child.  For some, scary reason obese or overweight children are becoming more the "norm" in a lot of areas.  but Why?

I love HealthTeacher and their monthly newsletters and I wanted to share the latest with all of you concerning physical activity for children, and for all of us!  Although I'm not currently teaching health and physical education, I LOVE to keep up with the trends and latest studies when it comes to health and wellness.  If you would like information about the organizations I subscribe to, I'd be more than happy to share with you!

“Physical activity yields such amazing results,” said Emily Coe, Director of Behavioral Sciences at HealthTeacher. “Activities like jumping rope, walking, playing tag and playing sports can help kids perform better in school and help them get along better with their peers. In addition, helping kids learn to enjoy physical activity of any sort provides them with a lifelong appreciation of physical activity and its benefits."

Research has repeatedly revealed that physical activity directly influences the brain and its ability to learn and perform well. " A University of Illinois study in 2010 showed that brain scans of active 9- and 10-year-olds revealed larger portions of the brain that control complex thinking. Other studies have shown links between exercise in children and “enhanced neurocognition.” The improvements to the brain show that there is a link between exercise and performance in school.
Why? On the most basic level, exercise helps send more oxygen to the brain, which improves how it functions and helps you think more sharply. According to Dr. John Ratey in his 2008 book The Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, exercise improves learning on three levels:
1. It optimizes your mind-set to improve alertness, attention and motivation.
2. It prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which is the cellular basis for logging in new information.
3. It spurs the development of new nerve cells.
Besides the positive impact physical activity has on learning, it provides an outlet for children’s emotional well being. “Physical activity can be a great stress management tool for kids as they 
get older, which will reduce the risk of anxiety and depression,” Coe said.

How do you ensure healthy living for your family and stress the importance of exercise and nutrition?
For starters, we try to set positive examples for our children.  If we're eating healthy and putting exercise as a priority, we are hoping that our children will see that and want to repeat that behavior as they grow older.  I always ask the boys what they are eating?  what food group?  Why do we need that type of food?  If we're eating something that's not the healthiest(because you know we're all human), I explain to the boys that it's okay to eat foods like that every now and then but we make sure and exercise and take care of our hearts above all else!  We like to exercise/run as a family!  We make it a BIG deal and when the boys run, bike, swim, want to do jumping jacks or talk about working their heart muscle, we encourage that behavior and praise them like crazy!!  Hopefully it'll help?  

What do you think about this post?  I'm curious to hear your feedback and opinions on this subject.


Elle said...

I agree that we have to be good role models for the children in our lives.

But I also think that kids think for themselves and want to do what their friends are doing.

It is something to be aware of and work at changing. I think it is great that you are doing so much to ensure your kids are on the right path. Good for you! and Great for your family.

sarita edgerton said...

I work in a restaurant where our portions are smaller than most other places because of the problem. We also charge less and everyone leaves satisfied!

christina said...

Last year when Gavin was in preschool he wanted to stay and eat lunch with his friends that were staying for the daycare afterwards. I was always SHOCKED by what would be in these kids lunches. Granted Gavins lunch isnt always as healthy as it should be but there were kids with 2-3 packages of adult portion and calorie snacks as their meal or poptarts, cupcake and a cheese stick as their meal.

I dealt with being heavy as a child and still struggle as an adult with food issues - its a fine line to want them to chose healthy options vs forcing them and then when they arent around they want junk. I hope I can teach my kids the balance.

Kerrie T. said...

I was just thinking the other day, after seeing an overweight elementary-aged girl, walking home from the bus that there should be more "excitement" about exercise for kids. And then I thought, well, obviously the parents probably need to get excited about it, too, so more excitement about exercise for FAMILIES. Totally going to check out this newsletter.

(Oh and then later a friend told me a horrifying story about what another one of our friends let her elementary-aged son eat at a fast food restaurant. It made me sick.)

hiker mom said...

I found it quite disturbing that kids equated fruit snacks with fruit?! Yikes, that's scary!

Christy @ My Dirt Road Anthem: A Runner's Blog said...

I am often appalled at the amount of food served in restaurants. I think they should help us see what real serving sizes are instead of inflating them.

I try to always emphasize healthy activities to my kids, but there are some crazy influences out there. Fruit snacks!?!? crazy

Laura Boll said...

Great post! I used to work in an elementary school and was amazed at what parents gave their kids for lunch, (and what the cafeteria provided, too!) Not to mention the lack of activity... I think you're right, modeling it is key, and hopefully they'll find the benefits of healthy living on their own!

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