The News Journal: YMCA program puts families, youth on healthy path

Thanks to a YMCA program focuses on healthy eating for families, grocery shopping has become a treasure hunt for Kisha Riviere and her daughter, Chanel.

Their favorite spoils are quinoa and peanut butter with just one ingredient – peanuts.

“That made us do jumping jacks,” Kisha said with a laugh recently at the Bear-Glasgow YMCA during the YMCA of Delaware’s Healthy Weight and Your Child Program.

But for 11-year-old Chanel that one ingredient peanut butter wouldn’t cut it.

“I tried it once and didn’t like it,” she said. Instead she opted for the Smart Balance brand of peanut spread, which is a bit closer to Jiffy or Skippy. “That one tastes a lot better and it tastes like peanut butter.”

With the YMCA’s Healthy Weight and Your Child Program, Kisha and Chanel are learning what healthy foods they like and how to cook them. But that’s just one piece of the program; instructors show both adults and their kids what factors influence healthy choices.

The words “overweight” and “obese” are not used to define a child.

“It’s not a weight-loss program. It’s more of a weight management program,” said Tricia Jefferson, a nutritionist and director of the YMCA of Delaware’s Healthy Living and Strategic Partnerships.

Research shows that children who exercise and eat balanced meals with healthy fiber, fruits and vegetables perform better in school, are more energetic, have strong bones and can more readily fight off disease. Involving the parents is crucial, Jefferson said, since healthy lifestyle changes have a better chance of sticking.

The YMCA’s  program is specifically for kids between the ages of 7 and 13 with a body mass index greater than the 95th percentile. The numbers vary with every child, Jefferson said, so there are no specific weight requirements in order for a child to participate.

It could mean children who just have an extra bit of baby fat, she added. Children can be referred through their doctor or school nurse.

The program is not tailored to prevent any specific disease, but teaches kids to make healthy choices that will ultimately stave off chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

“Even though it’s not guaranteed. It can impact those down the line,” she said.

The program includes a tour of a grocery store, physical activities and lessons on how to read the back of food labels and portion control, Jefferson said, since children in that age range are beginning to make their own food choices. It’s all about setting a child up to make a good choice, she added, and making sure that parents are on board with those choices.

“The parents are key,” she said.

For instance, check the first five ingredients in a packaged food, Jefferson said. Red flags include high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Look for foods instead that are high in fiber content, she added.

Kisha said that after the first few classes she and Chanel would run home and scour their kitchen, reading labels.

“They challenged us: see what’s in your house and see if that could be the problem,” she said 

Now they also know how important it is to take the time to wake up and make breakfast, Kisha added, and plan meals for lunch and dinner. 

While learning how to read food labels is a noble skill, it’s not the most important part of the initiative.

“A lot of it is focused on self-esteem for the kids,” Jefferson said. “It’s a lot about empowerment. Making sure they feel confident in themselves no matter what.”

A natural athlete, Chanel said that by making some diet changes and increasing her exercise, she’s felt more energetic. And when she and her mom go out to eat, Chanel watches their choices like a hawk.

“When we go places, shes holding me accountable,” Kisha said.

Jen Rini can be reached at (302)324-2386 or jrini@delawareonline.com. Follow @JenRini on Twitter.

Healthy Weight and Your Child Program
16 weekly sessions, followed by 4 biweekly sessions and 5 monthly sessions
For more information go to www.ymcade.org/healthy-weight-and-your-child-program

 

The News Journal: By Jen Rini, April 3, 2016  http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/health/2016/04/03/ymca-program-puts-families-youth-healthy-path/82393588/


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