I was recently asked to serve on a panel at the Junior League of Athens regarding health and wellness as they were choosing a focus for the upcoming year. Childhood obesity and how to educate children on living a healthier lifestyle were main topics. I thought I’d share a few of the questions asked. A lot of my answers may surprise you!
1. What is the area of need in the Athens community?
I think we all need to be aware that Georgia has the second highest childhood obesity rate in the US and that 40 percent of children in our state are overweight or obese, according to the Children's Health Care of Atlanta. This obesity rate means that the BMI of a child is above 40.
These statistics have a variety of causes including genetics, poor eating habits, less active lifestyles, school budget cuts leading to less physical education time and the fact that a number of meals from outside the home (especially fast food) has increased.
2. What are we doing currently to help these needs?
We all know the economy is not at its best, so I often hear the complaint that eating organic or natural is too expensive, but there are easy ways to fit this into the budget. We must look at the big picture of providing a healthy life for our families with good nutrition and physical fitness.
Here are some inexpensive resources that you can start taking advantage of now:
http://www.georgiashape.org – A website about the new program the state of Georgia initiated in May 2012 to help prevent obesity
http://www.Strong4life.com– Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
http://www.macaronikid.com– An online newsletter about family fitness
http://www.athletesontherise.com – A nonprofit based in Atlanta that fights childhood obesity and encourages young students to eat healthy and be physically active
Local resources: -UGA Botanical Gardens (walking trails, nature hikes, etc.) -Sandy Creek Nature Center -UGA Track -Athens Farmers Market – This is a great way to help support your local community as well!
3. How can we address these issues?
-Develop committees at your church and/or children’s schools to help educate parents, teachers and coaches by distributing newsletters about living healthy lifestyles. Also, remind your children’s teachers and leaders that we shouldn’t always reward our kids with candy or other unhealthy food. Remind them that studies even show that physical activity improves academic performance and behavior!
-Establish summer camps or programs to promote fun, healthy habits. We live right next door to some of the top collegiate athletes in the nation, so why not incorporate them into a week full of fun activities and learning about healthy lifestyles?
-Be ACTIVE with your own children! A great idea would be to create a “Game Jar” where your kids could draw a game out of to play with each other. Games could include everything from kick ball to hopscotch to four corners to jump rope to basketball!
-Ask your children to help you cook healthy meals and prepare healthy snacks for the family! A great recipe from Weelicous for homemade graham crackers is below!
Graham Cracker Recipe
- 2 1/2 cups of whole white wheat flour
- ½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ cup butter, chilled and cubed
- ½ cup honey
- ¼ cup water
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine the first five ingredients in the mixer.
- Add cubed and chilled butter (or coconut oil) to the mixture and mix.
- Add honey and water, and continue to mix until it all combines.
- Remove and shape the dough into a flat disk and place between two pieces of parchment paper.
- Roll dough out until ¼ inches thick.
- Cut into crackers or shapes.
- Place cookies on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.
- Cool and serve!
I know you all probably have some great ideas of your own, so please share them with me!