This is an article that featured my school children speaking about the 21 Day Challenge:
It is January and many people are making resolutions to eat healthier and exercise more in the coming year. Frisco ISD and the Kids Teaching Kids 21-Day Challenge offer families a tool to help keep those resolutions or kick off healthy eating at home.
Frisco ISD is an annual participant in the Kids Teaching Kids program sponsored by Medical City Children’s Hospital, the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association (GDRA) and its Foundation, Pro-Start. This year's snack challenge will be held January 25 through February 14, with registration now underway at kids-teaching-kids.com.
Last year, the three-week challenge resulted in participants increasing their fruit and vegetable intake by 3.2 percent and reducing the consumption of cookies by 16 percent. Students’ soda consumption dropped 4.8 percent and snacking on chips dropped by 13 percent. Parents of picky eaters will also be interested to know that 50.2 percent of students tried a new fruit or vegetable during the challenge, according to Sheila Gardner, Frisco ISD’s director of coordinated school health.
Gardner says the 21-Day Challenge is a great opportunity for busy families looking to establish and reinforce healthy eating habits, even on the run or with little assistance from parents.
“For instance, if a student is home alone and has blueberries in the refrigerator, he or she can go to the online Healthy Snack Finder and put in the word blueberry,” she said. “All the simple, healthy ideas for blueberry snacks will come up.”
Mark and Sharon Smith are the parents of Allyson, 9, and Nicholas, 7, who are students at Anderson Elementary. The Smith family registered and participated in the 21-Day Challenge last year and are gearing up to start the challenge again on January 25. Already, they’ve been talking to Anderson physical education teacher Lynell Addis about the snacks they might like to make at home.
Mark says his daughter Allyson leads the family’s interest in good nutrition and exercise. She is an ambassador for the NFL Fuel Up to Play 60 program, which encourages students to eat healthy and to be physically active for an hour each day. She has her younger brother geared up for this year’s Kids Teaching Kids challenge.
Allyson’s interest in healthy habits comes from school, but also from family issues. Her grandfather has had a heart attack and heart surgery and her father Mark has been losing weight as he deals with his own medical condition.
“I run every day and the kids ask me if they can go for a bike ride for an hour,” Smith said.
The family does not drink sugary soft drinks and even before this year’s challenge, they focus on incorporating fruits and vegetables, low-calorie rice cakes and low-fat cheeses into their diet. Celery and peanut butter is a family favorite.
But it isn’t always easy. At a recent family dinner, Allyson did not like her green beans, which had been seasoned with garlic. Her dad resorted to asking if he needed to report this to Coach Addis. Allyson eventually ate the beans, but she dipped them in soy sauce to enhance the flavor. “Which blew her salt intake,” Mark noted.
Allyson and her brother, Nick, are learning to read labels and watch their eating habits.
“We were at the dinner table and Allyson asked me if I knew how much sugar we should eat a day. I answered that I knew it was low – like a couple of spoonfuls,” Smith said, adding that Allyson then asked him in a shocked voice if he had any idea how much sugar was in a popular drink that many children consume regularly.
Talking about smart choices and food labels is another goal of the 21-Day Challenge. Debates between parents and kids over eating their vegetables will happen, but education and raising awareness at school can give parents an edge.
“This is a process,” Smith said of his family’s decision to eat well and live a healthier lifestyle. He praised Frisco ISD for bringing programs like the 21-Day Challenge and similar lessons to students.
How did students and adults work together as a team?
We sampled two of the items in the kids teaching kids cookbook during lunch time. PTA volunteers and our Fuel Up to Play 60 Anderson Ambassadors worked together to make it a success.
What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
We also had laptops available at school for parents to sign their children up at that time.