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UNCE programs on target during Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

Posted 8/30/2010

With September being declared "National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month" by the U.S. Senate, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) health and nutrition experts are urging Nevada families to exercise more and plan meals more carefully.

"Even small changes can make a big difference in fighting off childhood obesity," UNCE nutrition specialist Kerry Seymour said. "Just drinking a glass of water instead of soda can help."

According to UNCE experts, an estimated 14 percent of Nevada children less than 5 years of age are overweight. The underlying causes range from genetic propensity to socio-economic, cultural and environmental influences resulting in unhealthful eating and physical activity practices.

UNCE specialists coordinate 22 health and nutrition programs throughout Nevada — many of which address health issues for youth at risk of developing childhood obesity. In more urban areas, such as Clark and Washoe counties, the Chefs for Kids and Team Nutrition "Smart Choices" programs teach Nevada youth how to select healthy food combinations, choose foods that provide the greatest benefit to their bodies and make time for physical activity.

UNCE’s All 4 Kids program—an interdisciplinary curriculum combining the expertise of specialists in child nutrition, exercise physiology and child development—addresses childhood obesity at an early age. By communicating the importance of eating healthy and being active to preschool-aged children, All 4 Kids specialists seek to stop childhood obesity before it starts. Childhood obesity can strain children’s bodies, making them susceptible to typically adult ailments such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

Nationally, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 23 million children and teens in the United States are overweight or obese.

In a collaborative effort between land-grant universities throughout the United States, UNCE and other national extension organizations have formed the eXtension Web page: Families Food and Fitness (http://www.extension.org/families_food_fitness). The site is organized around three goals: to improve diet, increase physical activity and maintain a healthy body weight.

In order to achieve these goals, eXtension professionals focus on six key behaviors:

  • Move More Everyday — children need 60 minutes to several hours daily of moderate to vigorous physical activity. This time can be split up into several 10- to 15-minute sessions and can be as easy as dancing to the radio or playing a game during TV commercials.
  • Right Size Your Portions — in response to the ever-expanding portion sizes at the restaurant and drive-thru, Extension experts urge families to prepare more meals at home. Parents should talk with their children about appropriate portion sizes, and avoid casual TV eating and all-you-can-eat buffets.
  • Enjoy More Fruits and Vegetables — Most of us should get 2 to 6 cups of fruits and vegetables each day depending on age, gender and activity level. Eat a variety of canned, fresh and frozen fruits, and keep them in sight for easy, healthy snacking.
  • Prepare More Meals at Home — Set aside 30 minutes to plan out meals for the week. Talk with the family about likes and dislikes, and have some fun with meal planning. Cookbooks and websites are great sources for new recipes. If your family likes a new recipe, send it to the top of the menu for next week.
  • Tame the Tube — Limit your couch surfing time and plan out how much TV you and your family are going to watch. Limit your time to two hours per day. It’s important to be a good TV role model. Don’t watch TV during dinnertime, and supervise your children’s TV time.
  • Re-Think Your Drink — Help children learn to enjoy water as a thirst quencher and shy away from soft drinks. A 12-ounce can of soda has 150 calories and 10 teaspoons of sugar, often in the form of high fructose corn syrup.

To find out more about Cooperative Extension’s health and nutrition programs, go to the Extension website (http://www.unce.unr.edu/) , click on "programs/impacts" and select "Health and Nutrition."

On Wednesday, Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. Pacific Time, eXtension.org will offer a free webinar on early parenting feeding practices for parents and caregivers of children ages 3 to 5 years old. Jennifer Orlet Fisher from Temple University and Laura Hubbs-Tait from Oklahoma State University will review parenting and feeding styles and their association with obesity. Details on how to join the webinar are at http://www.extension.org/events/1786.

For more healthy eating tips, visit the Families, Food and Fitness website at http://www.extension.org/families_food_fitness, or contact your local cooperative extension.

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