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FOR RELEASE: September 16, 2004
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications

Parents Set the Example, Eat Healthy, Eat 5 A Day
National campaign urges healthy eating and exercise

As the school year kicks off, parents can help reverse the trends in childhood obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes by eating healthy at home, at their children’s schools, and when eating out. The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is urging parents to “Lead the Way: Choose Fruits, Vegetables, and Physical Activity” during National 5 A Day Month in September.

To help parents get started, OSDH is providing a checklist to help parents assess the health environment in their home and at their children’s school, as well as action steps parents can take to make sure fruits and vegetables are always available to their children.

“It’s vital for parents, as the most influential role model in children’s lives, to lead by example,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Crutcher. “Too many of our children are fighting diet-related illnesses. Parents need to lead the way to help children develop healthy eating and physical activity habits that will stay with them throughout life.”

All Americans should eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day for better health and get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week. In 2003, only 15.4 percent of Oklahoman adults consumed five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day, below the national average of 22.5 percent. In 2003, 60.1 percent of Oklahoman adults were not engaging in the recommended guidelines for moderate physical activity compared to 52.8 percent of the nation.

“Obesity rates have doubled in children and tripled in adolescents over the last two decades, with one in seven young people now obese and one in three now overweight,” Crutcher said. “Lifestyle habits begin at home at a very early age. If parents lead healthier lifestyles, their kids are more likely to do the same.”

As the state’s Commissioner of Health, Dr. Crutcher challenges all Oklahomans to lead healthier lifestyles by reaching the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables. “Our children and teens are suffering increasingly from health problems due to illnesses that normally occur later in life, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and pre-hypertension. As role models, it’s our duty to make sure our children don’t continue down this path.”

Poor diet and lack of physical activity are among the leading causes of preventable death in the United States. A healthy lifestyle, which includes staying active and eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, can help reverse this trend. Yet most Americans, both adults and children, don’t eat the recommended five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

At home, parents can:

  • Engage kids in the grocery shopping, from putting their fruit and vegetable favorites on the list to bagging their choices in the grocery store’s produce section.
  • Keep a fresh fruit bowl on the table or counter, and keep easy-to-grab-and-eat vegetables in the refrigerator.
  • Serve two vegetables with dinner.

Recent programs in schools show that when fruits and vegetables are added to the food choices throughout the day, including salad bars at lunch and snacks in the classroom, children and teens eat them and get closer to eating the amount of fruits and vegetables needed for good health. Parents have the power to make sure there is an abundance of appealing fruit and vegetable choices offered at schools, in cafeterias, in the classroom, and in vending machines and school stores.

To make a difference at schools, parents can:

  • Visit the school at lunchtime to see what’s offered as part of the lunch program and find out what’s available in vending machines, school stores, and as part of fundraisers.
  • Make their healthful desires known to their teachers, or help them write a letter to do this themselves.
  • Bring fresh fruit treats for birthday and other parties at school - what child wouldn’t love a big slice of watermelon for someone’s birthday, or a cup of fresh, juicy berries?

For more information, visit the National Cancer Institute’s 5 A Day Web site at www.5aday.gov , or call a nutritionist at your local county health department, or the OSDH Chronic Disease Service at 405/271-4072.


Parents, Are You Leading the Way?
Fruits, Vegetables, and Physical Activity
Action Steps Parents Can Take at Their Kids’ School
(Adapted from the National Cancer Institute’s 5 A Day Web site at www.5aday.gov.)

Find out if fruits and vegetables are available in your children’s school.

  • Get a sense of what the cafeteria offers by visiting the school at lunchtime or ask your children.
  • Find out if your child’s classroom has a healthy snack policy
  • Find out if fruits and vegetables are available in vending machines or the school store.

Find out what your children think about the snacks provided at school, and what healthy, appealing options they would like to have. Encourage other parents and children to do the same.

  • Let teachers know what fruits and vegetables your kids want as snacks or help your children write a letter to do this themselves.

Talk with principals, teachers, and other school staff about the importance of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.

  • Encourage them to establish a “healthy food policy” for parties, fundraisers, and other school events to ensure fruits and vegetables are always served.
  • Bring fresh fruit treats for birthday and other parties at school – what child wouldn’t love a big slice of watermelon for someone’s birthday, or a cup of fresh, juicy berries?
  • Encourage teachers to use fruits and vegetables as classroom rewards –suggest apples or other fruit instead.

Help your children understand how important fruits and vegetables are for their health.

  • Encourage them to choose fruits and vegetables they enjoy in the cafeteria.

Encourage your children to participate in after-school physical activities.

  • If your school doesn’t offer after-school sports, learn about the community sports team options instead.
  • Not every child wants to play a team sport – but most kids can enjoy being active in some way, whether it’s taking a bike ride, dancing, swimming at the local pool, or just getting outside to run and play.

Be active in your children’s school.

  • Recruit a health professional or nutrition expert to talk with the class about the importance of eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
  • Volunteer to organize a health-oriented fundraiser for the school, such as a car wash, fun run, or fruit and vegetable stand. A fundraiser like this could help pay for new sports equipment for a school, or a new salad bar.
  • When it’s your turn to bring snacks, bring fruits and vegetables.


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