Nutrition Pair spent the past week teaching nutrition to elementary school students at PW Moore Elementary School in Elizabeth City. We were asked to speak at the request of the school’s Physical Education teacher, Ms. Willemina Cartwright. “I want to get the children starting this school year in the right direction”, she said. Ms. Cartwright is concerned about the high numbers of childhood obesity and even early-onset Type 2 Diabetes that she has observed in her students at the school.
We taught nutrition classes one grade at a time to each of the grades, K through 5th grade. Over the course of a week, we spoke to over 600 students. With the Summer Olympics still fresh on their minds, we focused the talk on how each child can become more like the Olympic athletes and achieve strong, healthy bodies and smart minds. Some of the important points that we stressed to the students were:
~ The importance of eating breakfast everyday
~ “My Pyramid”: The Five Food Groups and the important roles of each food group.
~ Fruits and Vegetables, Fruits and Vegetables and More Fruits and Vegetables!
~ Getting physical activity every day: We stressed ways to be more active with activities such as jumping rope, playing basketball, dancing, riding a bike, and getting family members to take a walk.
~ Drink choices: The children were all were amazed when we showed them how much sugar was left in various sodas, kool-aid and fruit punches after we “drained out the liquid”. We stressed how these drinks give no nutritional benefit at all and are bad for our teeth. We stressed water or milk as better beverage choices. John and I were amazed at how many children, even as young as second grade, drink energy drinks such as “Vault”, “Monster” and “Red Bull”. We tried to stress how these drinks not only contain lots of sugar but also caffeine which will make their young hearts work way too hard.
~ Milk choices: We showed them the cartons of milk from their school cafeteria and how the “purple” or “blue” (skim or 1% milk, respectively) choices were better for them as every day choices than the “brown” or “pink” (chocolate or strawberry, respectively).
~ Snack choices: We showed them how to choose snacks from the Five Food Groups such as yogurt, graham crackers, string cheese, fruit or raw vegetables instead of candy and cookies.
I think we were successful…John walked through the cafeteria Friday during lunch and said that a table of 2nd graders wanted to show him their “blue or purple” milk cartons. One fourth grader told him that she has asked her mother to now pack fruit for her afternoon snack. Another table of 4th graders kept saying “We still can’t believe how much sugar was in those sodas!”.
It doesn’t stop with the children, however, parents and teachers can be role models and advocates of healthy eating and exercise too. P. W. Moore’s principal, Mr. Lindsey James, has asked John and I to present Nutrition & Fitness information to both the teachers and the PTA. So parents, grandparents, Aunts & Uncles, it is time for you to invest in the future of our children. Set a better example of leading a healthy lifestyle. Eat more fruits & vegetables, exercise more & take time to play with your children!
It’s Your Health. It’s Your Life. Make that change!