Clayton Early Learning
27Sep/13Off

Childhood Obesity: What can WE do?

Becky Keigan

We’ve heard it, the newspapers are reporting it, states and the federal government are addressing it, our universities are studying it and we in the field of early care and education see it on a daily basis…  our preschoolers are getting heavier!

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that “obesity now affects 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States - triple the rate from just one generation.” obesity-927 Obese and overweight children have increased incidence of risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, breathing problems, joint problems, fatty liver disease, and Type 2 diabetes. Obese and overweight children also have a greater risk of social and psychological problems including poor self-esteem and are more likely to become obese adults. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html  Sobering statistics for all of us who have been charged to ensure the health and welfare of all of the children in our care and in our communities!

As a Food Friends® Program Coordinator at Colorado State University since 2009, my work has focused on the research, development and implementation of a nutrition and movement program focused on establishing healthy eating and physical activity habits in preschoolers to prevent future weight gain.  The Food Friends program received an implementation grant in 2009 from The Colorado Health Foundation to take the research based program in to 950 preschool classrooms and 600 family child care homes.  In 2012 The Food Friends was awarded an additional $875,000 from The Colorado Health Foundation to implement a sustainability plan with all of the Food Friends participants. The grant was written based on my capstone project in the Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program where my Food Friends team and I were able identify the needs of the participants, write them in to the grant proposal and secure funding to help address those needs.  The Food Friends program is in 58 out of 64 counties with a current cumulative reach of 50,924 children and families.  This reach was made possible in part to the incredible networking with my Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program fellows.  A fabulous representation of how the Buell Network supports children and families throughout Colorado!

foodiesHere is a brief overview of how The Food Friends program is addressing childhood obesity preventionThe Food Friends: Fun With New Food is an evidence base social marketing campaign aimed at increasing children’s willingness to try new foods in an effort to enhance food choice, and hence dietary variety.  A physical activity companion program, The Food Friends: Get Movin’ with Mighty Moves® develops gross motor skills to improve the programs’ overall efforts to establish healthful habits that prevent childhood obesity early in life. Both programs have demonstrated significant behavior changes in preschool children and are published in the research literature.

In recognition of September as National Childhood Obesity Awareness month I would like to share The Food Friends 7 Simple Tips to Overcome Picky Eating and to Get Moving.  These simple tips can be incorporated in early care and education centers/homes and shared with families.

Fun with New Food:  7 Simple Tips to Overcome Picky Eating

  1. Make trying new foods fun
  2. Keep offering new foods
  3. Offer one new food at a time
  4. Be a good role model by eating new foods with the children
  5. Let children choose new foods
  6. Avoid forcing children to try new foods
  7. Teach children about new foods

Get Movin’ With Mighty Moves: 7 Simple Tips to Get Moving

  1. Let children explore with movement
  2. Make activity fun
  3. Be creative with activity
  4. Add activity into daily life
  5. Budget TV and screen time
  6. Engage children’s imagination
  7. Be a good role model by being active with children

I have learned so much in my work over the past four years and my passion has grown to ensure that our precious little children have the opportunity to be healthy as they grow and develop!  With that said, I want to emphasize it is we, the adults who are responsible for the health of our children!  It is our job… our job! We are the adults, they are the children.  We are the ones who are buying the food they eat and scheduling how/where they spend time.  We owe it to the children to provide healthy food and beverage choices… to give them opportunities to move their bodies… build those gross motor skills… allow for free, glorious play throughout the day… to have fun learning about food and what their bodies can do!   Join me in this critical cause, together we can join the national movement to address childhood obesity.

For more information on The Food Friends and/or program participation and healthy children please contact me, Becky Keigan at 970-491-3562 or by email rebecca.keigan@colostate.edu

Becky Keigan

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  1. Thank you for sharing this success story Becky. Sometimes we need to be reminded that school readiness is not just about ABC’s and 123’s. Health and nutrition provide the foundation for brain development and children’s success in school. I’ll be re-posting this blog and hope that others will too.


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