As summer wanes and back-to-school season approaches, kids may be cringing at the thought of getting back to long stretches at a school desk. But can the school environment actually help kids increase their activity level? A new study published in Preventive Medicine suggests it can.
The study on 1,100 elementary and middle school students measured the effectiveness of a government program called HEROES, which was developed to increase physical activity during the school day.
The schools restructured their physical activity classes to focus more on movement than sports to ramp up active participation. Some schools added ten-minute bursts of physical activity into regular classroom time. Nearly all participating schools started before-school or after-school walking programs, adding another 15-20 active minutes to the school day.
Did you ever wish your parent let you eat your cake alongside your broccoli? A small study published in the journal Appetite this week reported that preschool children might actually eat fewer calories when dessert is served right alongside their meal instead of afterwards.
The study out of Purdue University measured how the timing of dessert made a difference in how much lunch 23 chidren ate. Half of the 2-5 year old children were served a chocolate chip cookie alongside their lunch on Thursdays and Fridays while the other half received their dessert after their lunch plates were cleared. Eight weeks later, they switched groups. Thursday’s lunch entrée was fish and Friday was pasta, two favorites of this primarily Asian and Caucasian group of children.
Accounting for age, room, menu rotation, type of meal, and presence of morning snack, researchers found that children consumed 9% more calories overall when the cookie was served after lunch trays were cleared.
Portion size was also addressed by rotating in 50% larger portions of entrée, vegetable and fruit at certain meals, but surprisingly portion size was not found to factor into total calorie intake. The authors surmised that the results might be because the kids served dessert at the same time as lunch filled up sooner and chose to eat less food overall.
Helping children eat a healthful diet can be a challenge. Yet when children develop good health habits they’re more likely to stick with those habits later in life. And that can mean lower risk for many cancers and other chronic diseases when they become adults.
For many families, between all their activities and having limited experience with quick, healthy food prep, sitting down to healthful family meal may seem more like a luxury than routine. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
This past Tuesday, our monthly twitter chat focused on strategies and tips to help kids eat healthfully. Parents and registered dietitians weighed in on how they get their own families to eat healthy meals. Here are some ideas they shared:
1. Try theme meal nights: e.g. Taco Tuesday or Build Your Own Pizza Thursday.
It’s so much easier to prepare dinner if it’s already planned. For Taco Tuesday, all you need are the whole-wheat tortillas, beans, cooked chicken, chopped veggies and salsa. Put everything on the table and let everyone make their own. Continue reading