When considering that November is Good Nutrition Month, as well as health awareness month for several diseases and causes, you might think that there’s an effort to reverse the bad eating habits associated with Thanksgiving. Despite the irony of a focus on healthy eating near the time when we actually celebrate by overeating, this month is the perfect time to volunteer with a child to help teach him or her the importance of making smart choices when it comes to diet and exercise.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years in the United States. Additionally, most U.S. youth do not meet the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Forty percent of the daily calories for children and adolescents are coming from added sugars and solid fats. Habits like these often carry into adulthood and can have serious consequences such as cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and scores of other health problems.

The CDC also notes that children’s environments, such as their schools and communities, play an important role in their dietary behavior. Children need opportunities to learn about healthy eating in a supportive environment. That’s where you can make a difference.

Chicago Cares provides several opportunities for volunteers to help children make healthy choices about what they eat. At Healthy Start at Sherwood, Healthy Start at Bethel New Life, and Young Chefs at Young School; volunteers work with students to learn about nutrition and cook a healthy meal. At Cooking Adventures in Pilsen, parents participate in the learning and cooking as well. Volunteers collaborate with both parents and students to help cook a healthier version of a traditional recipe while sharing healthy lifestyle tips. At Girls’ Health & Wellness at LYDIA, teenage girls participate in exercises such as yoga or walking before preparing a light smoothie or trail mix snack.

Students are often apprehensive about trying new foods, such as spaghetti squash or pumpkin burgers, but once they try them, they can’t get enough! Children learn how to make their favorite foods, such as pizza, in a healthy way by substituting nutritional ingredients for those that are not-so-nutritious. They learn the importance of a nutritious meal and find out that eating healthy does not mean sacrificing delicious taste.

Come be a part of the learning (and taste some great food) at one of these programs!

Today’s blog is from Education Coordinator, Martha Renken