Aug. 4, 2015 03:34 PM

Adolescence can be a time of declaring independence, a catalyst of what’s to come in adulthood. It can also be a time when students begin to fight the battle of the bulge. Nationally, an emerging issue for this life stage is childhood obesity — a top health threat as playtime is replaced with screen time and mom-approved snacks fall victim to super-sized fast foods. One local organization, the Women’s Foundation, is working in area schools and with both parents and students in programs to change the lives and the futures of these students.

According to the Center for Disease Control, obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. More than one third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese in the U.S.

It’s not just the scales that cause concern. Obese children can also struggle with other issues like sleep apnea, joint pain, high cholesterol and pre-diabetes. The CDC also reports overweight and obese children are at increased risk for long-term health issues like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and osteoarthritis — all disorders attached with high price tags for health and low quality of life.

In addition to the health issues caused by obesity, some children experience depression onset by a negative body image. At a time when they should be laughing, students are struggling both emotionally and physically. Enter the Women’s Foundation.

Founded in 1979, this local nonprofit exists to provide education promoting the well-being of women and families through collaboration and partnerships. For the past two years, the Women’s Foundation has worked with sixth and seventh grade girls at Acadian Middle School through a series of talks related to nutrition, behavior and fitness as part of the Kids in the Kneaux program. This school-based, healthy initiative program is lead by the foundation as a means to reach at-risk youth during the pivotal point of adolescence.

“We love being there with the girls and having the opportunity to impact lives is not taken lightly — we discuss topics such as positivity, goal setting, body image, portion sizes, making better choices and a host of other matters,” says Kyrin Minor, community education program coordinator for the Women’s Foundation. “We leave each year hoping they have received at least half of the information we have provided.”

The Women’s Foundation plans a return to Acadian Middle in spring 2016 with hopes of adding to the reach of the program including eighth grade girls and sixth grade boys.

“Eventually, our ultimate goal would be offering this program at multiple schools, but it takes time to plan and get resources,” says Minor.

The Women’s Foundation offers a similar program during the summer months that is open to the public for a low cost. The Kids on the Geaux program is also driven to educate children about self-esteem and goal setting, portion sizes and healthy snack ideas and includes fitness activities during each nine-week program session. A parent is required to attend Kids on the Geaux sessions — expanding education to those living with the child maximizes the foundation’s program intentions and builds accountability in the home.

It’s all about equipping children and inspiring them to lead healthier, happier and more rewarding lives.

SMART SNACK SWAPS

Don’t know where to start? Try out simple ideas for every meal of the day. Couple this with at least 30 minutes of activity or play each day to keep kids fit.

Breakfast

Start the day with a protein-rich meal that will avoid the emotional roller coaster of falling blood sugar.

DITCH: Bagels, muffins and pancakes

SWAP: Hard-boiled egg, turkey sausage and fresh fruit

Lunch

Sandwiches are a quick and easy lunch box go-to, but beware of high sodium mystery meat and sugary, lowfiber breads.

DITCH: Overly processed deli meats and high fructose sandwich breads

SWAP: Applegate Farms organic/natural meats and Ezekiel tortilla roll-ups.

Salty Snacks

Empty calorie snacks leave kiddos with greasy fingers and full of fat. Lighten up and keep the crunch.

DITCH: Regular potato chips

SWAP: Air popped popcorn sprinkled with nutritional yeast for a cheesy taste

Sweet Stuff

I scream, you scream, we all scream for frozen treats that inspire health.

DITCH: Ice cream sundae with hot fudge

SWAP: Frozen bananas blended with cacao powder and almond milk for a chocolate shake twist

Fizzy Sips

Bye bye sugar-laden soda and artificial diet colas.

DITCH: Conventional soda

SWAP: Homemade sippers with sparkling water and a splash of 100% real fruit juice

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