Giving kids a foundation for a healthy life

School program teaches benefits of eating well, exercising

Ten-year-old Sage Mowat

Moms and dads will tell you, getting a child to eat their vegetables can be one of the tougher obstacles parents can face. And in this age of Wiis and Blu-Ray players, convincing the kids to go outside and play can be a challenge of its own.

That’s why a program returning to a number of Capital Region schools this spring is trying to turn exercise and healthy eating into a lifelong habit for students at a young age.

The program, called Eat Well, Get Moving! is a partnership between the Vancouver Island Health Authority and Greater Victoria recreation centres. It offers a variety of prizes to kids who eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables and engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

The plan is simple. Kids get a card to track their progress. At the end of each month – the program runs for three – a portion of the card is torn off and entered into a draw for prizes like T-shirts, recreation passes and pizza coupons. At the end of April, when the program wraps up, students will have a chance to win even bigger prizes, like tickets to University of Victoria Vikes and Victoria Grizzlies games or the AdrenaLINE zipline adventure.

Maureen Rowan, clinical co-ordinator for public health nurses with VIHA, said the program speaks to the role healthy lifestyle choices play in setting kids up for future success.

“What’s really important is when you have healthy choices around food and activity, that supports children’s growth, development and learning,” Rowan said.

At Quadra school, eight classes are taking part in the program. Some kids are already well on their way to filling up the February section of their card.

“Because I go to after-school care, we have a gym and outside, and all that together is like two and a half hours (per day),” Grade 4 student Sage Mowat said of her daily exercise totals. Some of the activities Mowat enjoys include soccer, football and rock climbing.

Meanwhile Mowat’s friend, Grade 5 student Autumn Kay, is undaunted by the prospect of eating plenty of fruits and veggies.

“When I was little, my dad would put a bowl of Smarties down, and I’d eat a couple then I would ask my dad for carrots and broccoli with ranch dip,” Kay said. “He would put a big bowl of it (out) and I would devour it.”

The girls already understand the benefits of healthy lifestyle choices.

“It keeps your body stimulated,” said Mowat, adding that it helps her in school, too. “You can concentrate more on your work.”

The students at Quadra are just a few of the nearly 3,500 in Greater Victoria who have already signed up to Eat Well, Get Moving!

Rowan is hopeful that the healthy decisions don’t stop at school.

“If this becomes a discussion at the dinner table while everybody’s sitting together and having dinner together, then it again reinforces and supports healthy lifestyle choices,” she said.

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