A new nutritional education program is helping parents feed their children more healthful foods without the usual resistance.
The Fuel Your Dreams campaign teaches kids to pick specific foods to help their bodies be at their very best, said founder Ellen Briggs of West Palm Beach.
The program encourages kids to share their dream career, whether it’s to play professional basketball or become a pop star, and learn which body parts are necessary to accomplish the task.
Posters and flashcards created by the campaign show kids which foods they need to fuel their muscles so they can become a stronger runner, or to sing their best and have healthy lungs. It ultimately motivates them to eat healthier.
“It evolved out of passion,” said Briggs, whose son inspired her to rethink how kids look at healthy foods.
Her interest led to the creation of Kids Kritics Approved — akin to the Good Housekeeping Seal — an online resource launched in 2010 that independently evaluates food so parents can stop wasting time and money, she said.
Almost 1,000 products are listed on an approved grocery list, so “parents can quickly find foods that are ‘kid-approved' (taste good) and meet firm nutrition guidelines,” according to the website.
“Everything goes through them before it is recommended,” Briggs said of her team of registered nutritionists from across the country.
The approvals are based on more than 25,000 blind taste tests done in South Florida, with participants ranging in age from 5 to 13.
Each item that makes the list has received positive reviews by at least 70 percent, and has details like its nutritional value, along with allergy information, readily available.
Kids Kritics Approved offers coupons for some featured brands, along with recipes that utilize many of the ingredients; not all recipes, however, have been tested as thoroughly as each single product.
The website’s newsletter and blogger outreach program reaches 100,000 to 200,000 moms and grandmothers — its target audience — a week, Briggs said.
“We want the moms. The seal is their ticket, their insurance. They trust the seal,” Briggs said.
Companies are asking Kids Kritics Approved to evaluate their products, Briggs said, as the program has become more popular.
Despite the enthusiasm, Briggs said they have had to turn down many products because they didn’t make the cut, nutritionally.
The Fuel Your Dreams campaign is a new component of Kids Kritics Approved and utilizes those rigid requirements to expand the company’s line of posters; Briggs dreams of having a poster for every possible career, and is OK with taking the time to do it carefully and correctly.
Programs promoting healthy living have become a popular trend in the past few years because of the nation’s obesity issue.
Even the first lady has dedicated her cause to decreasing childhood obesity through exercise campaigns and healthy eating tips, and National Nutrition Month takes place in March.
As a part of Michelle Obama’s efforts, the federal government responded to the epidemic on Feb. 25 with a proposal for new “marketing regulations that would ban in-school advertising for foods that are high in sugar, fat and salt and do not meet new federal nutrition rules,” according to the Washington Post.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2012 that one-third of children and teens ages 6 to 19 are overweight or obese in the United States.
Obama mentioned in her presentation that kids are bombarded at schools with ads for junk food. Food companies spent $150 million marketing to children in schools in 2009, according to the Federal Trade Commission, and the proposal targets removing advertisements for sodas and sports drinks.
Kids also are eating enlarged portions and more junk food, with little emphasis being put on healthier options, according to a study conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Dr. Rani Whitfield, a family physician from Baton Rouge, La., recommends bringing young children to the grocery store and using whole ingredients to cook healthy meals together.
Both Briggs and Whitfield’s methods incorporate children and have them get involved in what they put into their bodies, reducing the likelihood of bingeing on junk food.
“The program empowers them to do it for themselves,” Briggs said.