Wednesday, July 9, 2014

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Becoming a Nutrition Detective

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS:  Becoming a Nutrition Detective

"Evolutionarily, sugar was available to our ancestors as fruit for only a few months a year (at harvest time), or as honey, which was guarded by bees.  But in recent years, sugar has been added to nearly all processed foods, limiting consumer choice.  Nature made sugar hard to get; man made it easy."                                                             --Dr. Robert Lustig

Last fall, health literacy came into the lives of 25 young people in the form of a new afterschool program conducted by Growing Healthy Kids at the Gifford Youth Activity Center in Vero Beach, Florida. I’m not sure who had more fun – the kids or the staff who participated in the program!  The kids got to play in the kitchen every week as they learned lessons about what it means to eat good foods.  We shredded, grated, and mixed our way to some great recipes.  At the last class, each child took home copies of the recipes they had made and tasted, along with their very own "Eat Rainbows" aprons to remind them to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. 

Classroom time before playtime in the kitchen

Fresh vegetables and herbs can really make foods taste fresh AND delicious!

The Smokin' Salmon burger was a bit hit!

Having fun in the kitchen!

I recently contacted the Center’s director, the amazing Angelia Perry, about teaching a new program this summer.  Without hesitating, she said yes.  Tomorrow is the first class and I am so excited because the children are going to learn how to be a nutrition detective! 

We have an obesity epidemic in America.  Two in three adults are overweight or obese but one in three children is overweight or obese.  When I was growing up in Sacramento, California we played outside after school every day, walked to school, and had P.E. every day through high school.  We didn’t have McDonalds and Coca-Cola getting kids addicted to sugar, just like crack cocaine gets people addicted. 

Eating too much sugar is something most kids (and many adults) do every day without even knowing it.  The excess calories are stored at fat.  The fact is sugar is highly addictive and food manufacturers know it.  Sugar is added to most processed foods.  We have become complacent about knowing what we are eating.  Take something as American as a bowl of breakfast cereal and figure out how much sugar you are eating every morning.  Look at the Nutrition Facts label to determine how many grams of sugar are in a serving.  Then determine how many servings are in that big cereal bowl of yours.  So many food manufacturers create serving sizes that are teeny tiny compared with what we really pour in our bowls.  Divide the total grams of sugar by 4 to get the number of teaspoons of sugar you are eating.

Your next lesson in becoming a nutrition detective will be in next week’s Wellness Wednesdays when we will talk about what a day’s worth of sugar should be vs what people really eat a day. When you go to the grocery store, compare labels and choose the breakfast cereals that is lowest in added sugar.  

To order an "Eat Rainbows" apron and remind your kids to plan meals and snacks with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, click here.  Happy Summer!

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.