Parent Health and Wellness Awareness Day: Girls Prep

Today was a very special day at Girls Prep: it was Parents’ Health and Wellness Awareness Day! I packed up my suitcase-full of affordable Trader Joe’s goodies that I had prepared the evening before and headed over to Girls Prep School in Manhattan early this morning to surprise the kindergarten girls and their parents with tasty, nutritious treats. The girls and their parents had never seen or tasted many of these foods before, which is what made this exercise so effective.

Many of the girls reported to me that they usually eat breakfast before coming to school, but most shared that they indulge in quick sugar-rich foods like cereal and milk, bagel and butter, waffles or pancakes with syrup and juice. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I believe in promoting and encouraging the right balance of protein, healthy fat and fresh fruit and vegetables to start their day off right. If the young children of America continue to eat this way, they are potentially setting themselves up to fit into the statistics for a lifetime of diabesity (diabetes and obesity). Let’s start educating and preventing NOW!

Excitingly, most students were brave enough to taste at least a few bites of the new healthy snacks presented to them in a friendly lunch or dinner table style set up. We had an adventure of the senses: the 5 and 6 year old girls were allowed to explore and play with their food by smelling, tasting, licking, looking (and judging of course!). With the help of the fantastic teachers and assistants, each of the girls was presented with her own plate prepared with a taste of fiber-rich foods that included blueberries, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, a dollop of fat-free cottage cheese, a spoonful of humus, raw walnuts, wild Atlantic salmon (canned with fresh lemon instead of mayo) on an omega-3 rich gluten-free rice cracker, celery loaded with raw crunchy almond butter and raisins (ants on a log!), and a toothpick with two chickpeas. Once most of the girls opened up their mouths to taste the food, they could not stop… it was miraculous to watch their little bodies responding to the brain foods they had just tasted. For those who were not in the mood to taste, I hope to come back again and continue to expose them to the power of food as medicine.

I must admit how proud I am of these girls – each one won their entry into the Two-Bite Club and left with certificates! In order to obtain a certificate, you had to sample two bites of a new food. After the tastings, the girls were sent back to their classroom for a creative and fun project where they got to create their own place mats for a daily reminder of what a healthy plate should look like. The template included a fruit, vegetable, water and exercise tally box to encourage healthy eating/lifestyle throughout the day, plus a large plate demonstrating the correct proportion of whole grains, protein, and fruits and vegetables they are to aim for at each meal. As part of this, they were assigned a sorting task where they got to select 5 new fruits or vegetables they would like to try at home with their family. It was a huge success!

This snack session complimented the work we had done a week together with our water and hydration lesson where the girls got to flavor their sparkling or flat water with berries, mint or citrus fruit to hydrate their bodies. By encouraging healthy water intake and teaching the girls about the sugar content in soda and juice, we can help them understand that with the simple act of drinking water and replacing it with other sugary drinks, they can learn and focus better in the classroom while improving their overall energy and concentration throughout the day. Too many of our students walk around dehydrated and malnourished – it is time to take a stand!

My goal is to get into the Girls Prep Charter School plus ALL schools across the city of New York once or twice per month for a nutrition-based lesson with the kindergartners. This is the perfect age to expose them to new foods and healthy lifestyle habits while encouraging them to take charge of their health through balanced eating and drinking water.

Thank you to everyone for your ongoing support of my Don’t Spill the Beans program!

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