Young children eat smart, move more at area day cares

Article Published: Feb. 23, 2012 | Modified: Feb. 23, 2012
Young children eat smart, move more at area day cares

Anyone who has cared for young children knows to be mindful of words spoken and behavior, since they mimic us early on. As adults, we teach them how to behave.

While parents work, some children spend the majority of their waking hours with child-care workers.
Local child-care professionals are now able to be healthier role models for the little ones they care for, thanks to funding through the Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant. According to Stephanie Craven, healthy youth policy coordinator with the health department, “Throughout the Appalachian Health District, child-care workers have created wellness committees to decide how to improve their own health practices. They come up with their own ways to encourage eating more fruits and vegetables and being more active.”

Funding has been provided for a lending library of DVDs and activity-oriented equipment for local centers to share. Many centers have implemented policies prohibiting caregivers from bringing in unhealthy restaurant choices and eating from restaurant containers or bags in front of children.

Additionally, they now drink water from water bottles, instead of sodas or other sugar-sweetened beverages.

Parents are being encouraged to bring healthy foods for celebrations, teaching children early on that it is possible to have fun without eating junk food.

To improve the health environments for young children, funding has provided monies through a competitive application process to 32 licensed child-care facilities in Alleghany, Ashe and Watauga counties.

Centers have come up with a variety of ideas to improve policies and environments that increase physical activity and healthy eating for preschool-aged children.

Some have been able to purchase needed equipment to encourage active play. One center has enough property to develop a nature trail.

Sam Townsend, owner of Special Place, is encouraging families to garden by building raised beds and hosting family work times. Each family will have a bed to grow vegetables at the center, and the children will be able to care for their food and watch it grow every day.

“Parents will be required to work one hour per week with their child in their own raised bed, and each family will donate part of what they grow to the center and take the rest home,” Townsend explains. “Children will participate in cooking experiences. The grant also provides money to purchase apple and other fruit trees. A year-round curriculum will connect the garden to the classroom and families.”

Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture program has been contracted with to provide an extensive training for child-care workers on all aspects of gardening with young children on April 24.

Here are a couple of great recipes to make with children, or adults.

Banana Split

Ingredients per child:

½ banana, cut lengthwise
½ cup low sugar, whole grain cereal
½ cup vanilla yogurt
¼ cup berries
¼ cup pineapple chunks
Bowls, spoons, ¼ and ½ measuring cups

Demonstrate how to and then assist as they make their own.
Place the banana half that is cut lengthwise in bowl.
Sprinkle ¼ cup cereal over banana.
Spoon yogurt over banana.
Add the rest of the cereal and top with fruit.
Discuss the colors of the fruit and yogurt while eating together.

Bagel Pizzas

Ingredients per child:

½ large bagel slice
1 tablespoon pizza or spaghetti sauce
1/8 cup mozzarella cheese
¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning
Vegetable toppings: chopped green pepper, banana peppers, mushrooms, green or black olives

Have each child spread sauce on bagel.
Sprinkle Italian seasoning and cheese.
Make adding vegetables fun by making in the shape of a face or other design.
Have them place on a cooking sheet.
Broil bagels for 5 to 7 minutes, until cheese is melted and golden.

Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D., is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with the N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. To contact her, email or call (828) 264-3061.

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