The DuPage County Health Department suggests that parents use Valentine's Day-an occasion for candy and sugary snacks-as a festive opportunity to get their little ones to eat healthier foods and treats.
Generally, children will gravitate toward foods that are attractive, novel and eye-catching, so use this holiday to alter snacks to encourage healthy consumption. Remember that while it is fine to occasionally give your children sweets for a festive occasion, it is also important to establish healthy eating habits.
Now is your chance to get the kids to eat some healthier foods by making these Valentine's Day snack treats that are festive and eye-catching:
• Vegetable-based pastries are a great fibrous alternative to Valentine's Day cakes. Some healthier alternatives include zucchini bread, pumpkin bread or carrot cake.
• Think of a flashy and exciting new name for a healthy snack your child is familiar with. For example, calling celery with peanut butter and raisins "ants on a log" may prove to be more enticing to kids. Why not do something similar for Valentine's Day? Try switching those raisins with dried cranberries and call the snack "hearts on a log."
• Decorate a veggie platter with flowers and red roses. While the flowers are not meant for consumption, their colors may attract children to eat more servings of the healthier food.
• Serve healthy vegetable soups in heart-shaped bowls or bread bowls.
• Make healthy, heart-shaped veggie pizzas with heart-shaped tomato cutouts just for Valentine's Day.
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The Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (IAHPERD) are encouraging students to continue exercising their minds and bodies during winter break. In addition to the many healthy benefits of exercise, studies have identified a link between physical activity and improved academic performance.
"We are encouraging students to approach physical fitness not just as a P.E. class but as a lifelong habit,'' said State Board of Education Chairman Gery J. Chico. "We hope that students will get off the couch and exercise at least 60 minutes each day during the holiday break and put in equal time reading alone or with their family."
Physical Education experts recommend teachers invite students to return to classes with photos of themselves exercising during winter break and post them in classrooms and school gymnasiums. Students can challenge themselves with daily indoor exercises such as push-ups, stretching and `brain break' activities such as jumping rope as well as outdoor adventures such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or just a brisk walk with family members at a local park or forest preserve.
"Awareness of the mind and body connection as it relates to academic success has never been stronger," said Cathy Patzner, President of IAHPERD, and a physical education teacher at Lake Park High School, Lake Park School District 108 in Roselle. "Students who participate in daily vigorous physical activity are more likely to be successful in the classroom."
In addition to making time for exercise, state officials are encouraging students to continue reading during the winter break. Studies show that reading during school breaks can help prevent academic loss and help students return to school ready to learn. Local park districts and libraries can be sources for physical fitness and educational programs over the Christmas break.
"Park districts throughout Illinois offer a wide array of programs for children during the winter break to keep their minds alert and their bodies active," said Peter Murphy, President and CEO of the Illinois Association of Park Districts. "Examples include chess camps, educational field trips, sports programs, and open gym opportunities for children to expend their energy in a safe environment. Several park districts also offer discounted passes for students on winter break to access their local fitness centers and participate in health and wellness classes.''
John Miller from BeachBody is on the January, 2012 edition of SchoolScape