Program helps kids teach parents about health food choices

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The program at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center focuses on making good food choices to fight childhood obesity. But now, the kids are becoming the teachers and bringing home lessons on healthy eating to share with their families.

Anaya Jacobs and her mom are attentive students in a specially designed classroom at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Clovis. But 11-year-old Anaya is the one who will show the rest of her family, what she's learned.

"What I've learned was not to over-do my plate, over stuff. I've learned how to do portions,' said Anaya.

This hands-on clinic is specially designed to teach kids how to make healthy choices at home and at school, to prevent childhood obesity. The program, called Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) is a collaborative effort at Kaiser, involving pediatricians, dietitians and health educators who guide kids and their families in a goal-oriented journey of diet and exercise.

"We really focus on family change and family dynamics have a huge part in the values these kids learn early on what it's like to be healthy, eat healthy and achieve a healthy weight," said Dr. Casey Gray, Chief Of Pediatrics, Kaiser.

Dr. Gray says it's crucial to teach children how to make healthy choices before unhealthy habits become hard to break. And he says victories are celebrated in attainable changes not numbers on the scale.

"We don't focus so much on setting a goal like you need to lose 20 pounds at the end of the 6 months. We focus much more on we need to achieve a better BMI we need to achieve a healthier lifestyle," said Dr. Gray.

Colorful, interactive, real-life examples are used in the HEAL program to teach kids recommended portion sizes and how to read the fine print on food.

Reading labels is challenging enough for adults but the HEAL program gets kids interested in looking up the ingredients on some of their favorite foods to help them make more informed choices.

Not only are the kids making healthier choices, they're shocking their parents by pitching in.

"Some kids are even volunteering to help in the kitchen. So parents totally welcome that and it's another opportunity to interact with the kids as well," said Maria Elena Avila-Toledo, Clinical Health Educator.

Help in the kitchen? Just one of the perks of a program that gives kids the power to put into practice what they've learned to put on their plates.
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