Our Nation is facing a health crisis, which has grown over the last thirty years to epidemic proportions. With one in every three children ages 2-19 overweight or obese, the time has come for all Americans to take action. There is considerable knowledge about the risk factors of childhood obesity on health and readiness to learn and the consequences of obesity on quality of life and longevity.
The dependent children of the military and civilian employees of the Department of Defense, for whom it is our mission to provide education and associated care, as well as the many employees of DoDEA worldwide, are not immune from the effects of the gradual, sweeping cultural changes that have caused this epidemic.
First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move Campaign involves everyone, all of us, as partners, working together to end this epidemic within a generation, so that children born today are provided with a healthy start that is maintained through healthy foods, physical activity and educational opportunities. Creating the culture of change needed to reverse the obesity epidemic is a long term process. It is first and foremost a process of building capacity among parents and caregivers (including school personnel) to become the advocates, role models and champions that children and youth need to have involved in their lives, showing them how to live healthy lifestyles.
All DoDEA constituents are invited to share with us, through the "DoDEA Health and Wellness Best Practices" found on this webpage, how your schools, families and communities are partnering to provide healthy food choices and daily physical activity opportunities for children and youth. So, "Let's Move, DoDEA"
Teach children about making healthy choices by explaining how "grow-and-go" foods will help them feel good and have fun at school. Grow-and-go foods are foods high in complex carbohydrates, good sources of protein, include vitamins and minerals and a moderate amount of fat.
Here are some quick and easy ideas courtesy of the Defense Commissary Agency for lunch and snacks that are grow-and-go foods:
- B-n-B wrap (Banana and nut butter wrap). Mash a banana and mix with any nut butter. Here is an opportunity to try a different butter - like almond butter, which is high in vitamin E and protein. If your child prefers, sprinkle with dried fruit or coconut for a different flavor. Spread it on a whole-wheat wrap or flat bread, roll it up, cut it up and bag it.
- Turkey, ham or chicken with hummus or Greek yogurt wrap. Spread some plain hummus or Greek yogurt on a wrap, add meat slices, any cheese (optional), lettuce or spinach and cucumber slices. Roll it up and bag it. Hummus or Greek yogurt adds a unique flavor, so if your children do not like it, use mustard or a little mayonnaise.
- M-n-C roll up (Meat and cheese roll ups). Take any thinly sliced luncheon meat and your children's favorite cheese, roll it up and bag it. Also pack some whole grain crackers or pita chips for energy-packed carbohydrates.
- Pita pocket with curry chicken salad. Take chopped chicken and mix it with a little curry, Greek yogurt, chopped celery and chopped carrots. Put it in a whole wheat pita pocket with spinach or romaine lettuce.
- Flat bread or bagel pizza. Toast a flat bread or 1/2 bagel pizza with spaghetti sauce, shredded cheese and your choice of vegetables such as spinach, tomato slices, squash or broccoli.
- Baby carrots, cucumbers chunks, grape tomatoes, hummus, whole-grain crackers and pita chips. Put some hummus in a small container to use as a dip. Bag the carrots, cucumber chunks and grape tomatoes. Also pack some whole grain crackers or pita chips for energy-packed carbohydrates.
- Low-fat yogurt, cheese, sandwiches. Keep low-fat yogurt, cheese and sandwiches cold by using an ice pack, frozen juice box or frozen milk box.
- Tortilla chips, plain yogurt and salsa. Cut up tortillas in quarters, sprinkle a little salt on them and heat them in the microwave for a minute or two. Mix the yogurt, for protein and calcium, with salsa or just put plain salsa in a small container for a dip.
- Trail mix. Mix almonds, peanuts, dried fruit and whole-grain cereal for a nutrient dense, energy-packed food and bag it. This is a great "take it anywhere" kind of food.
- Great snacks. Cheese sticks, nuts, frozen yogurt, 100-percent juice in boxes, dried fruit, fresh fruit and canned fruit all make great snacks and additions to lunches.
Schools include nutrition education through the comprehensive Health Education Content Standards (pre-kindergarten through grade 12) and engage in nutrition promotion that is part of not only health education classes, but is also integrated into classroom instruction in subjects such as math, science, language arts, social sciences, physical education and elective subjects. This includes enjoyable, developmentally-appropriate, culturally-relevant, participatory activities, such as contests, promotions, taste testing, farm visits, and school gardens.
Nutrition education activities promote fruits, vegetables, whole grain products, low-fat and fat-free dairy products, healthy food preparation methods, and health-enhancing nutrition practices. An emphasis is placed on caloric balance between food intake and energy expenditure and links with school meal programs, other school foods, and nutrition-related community services.
Health education focuses on health literacy skills with an emphasis on accessing valid nutrition information, analyzing influences such as food marketing, as well as, setting goals and making responsible decisions related to food choices. School nutrition education and promotion includes informational dissemination to students, teachers, parents and other staff.