A pilot program will be launched in Kelowna to help families adopt a healthy culinary and activity lifestyle.
The Family Healthy Living Program is being developed through the Childhood Obesity Foundation, and will be led by Dr. Tom Warshawski, a Kelowna-based pediatrician who is also chair of the foundation.
It will target families with school-aged children 8 to 12 who are above a healthy weight, covering such topics as physical activity, health eating, parenting practices and mental health.
The 10-week initiative, also being undertaken in 10 other B.C. communities, will be done at Kelowna in conjunction with the Kelowna Family YMCA.
It is the hope the pilot project will lead to the program being introduced in other communities, including Vernon and Penticton.
Warshawski said the province has provided funding to develop a prototype program to replace its provincial predecessor, the Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do-It! program started in 2012 across the province, which was derived from a United Kingdom initiative to address childhood obesity.
“It was a pretty good program, basically adapted as is from the United Kingdom version, but we found it not a good fit for B.C. for a couple of reasons, it was very weight control focused as opposed to healthy lifestyle habits and it was two nights per week which is a big impact on a family’s time,” Warshawski said.
The Kelowna pilot project will start Wednesday, Sept. 26, and run for 10 weeks, with each session lasting from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Children and their parents must attend, and the kids will get a break to play other activities available at the Y during part of that time. Free registration is available for up to 15 families.
Warshawski said the influence of processed foods and sugar-hyped beverages and juices continue to make obesity a plague among our youth.
The foundation is awaiting approval of new legislation now in third reading in the House of Commons, championed by Sen. Nancy Green Raine, that calls for marketing restrictions on junk food to those under the age of 13.
“We are doing better than the U.S., but not dramatically better. What we find is youth obesity leads to adult obesity and a host of health problems like heart disease and diabetes that go along with that,” he said.
“In adulthood, it particularly seems to take effect with people who are less physically active and have a larger discretionary income.”
His hope is for this new program to not just focus on what is unhealthy to eat, but on learning new behaviours and family practices that avoid relying on unhealthy foods as a large part of our children’s diets.
One aspect of family life, he cited, that can lead to bad eating habits is over-scheduling your kids in activities that restrict spending family time together, in particular home-cooked family meals.
“Some times it is better off to do one less activity, stay at home and eat at home and perhaps go down to the park and throw a frisbee around or do things as a family rather than always being on the run,” he suggested.
For more information or to register for the Family Healthy Living Program in Kelowna, visit the website www.familyhealthyliving.ca.
Five back-to-school healthy lifestyle tips for kids provided by Childhood Obesity Foundation:
* Get 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night; don’t send a child to bed with a smartphone or tablet as sleep time means no screen time
* Have a healthy breakfast with protein and some fat; avoid a reliance on surgery grain cereals
*Avoid pre-packaged items in their lunches such as juices and pop; drink water and eat fruit
* Stay away from carbohydrate-laden processed foods like added-flavour granola bars or crackers
* Find ways for kids to walk at least partly to school, and arrive early so they can get some playtime in at the playground before class starts in the morning
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