*This story first appeared in The Budget’s May 30, 2018, Local Edition.
By Stacey Carmany
A special program being offered by Cleveland Clinic Union Hospital is empowering area children to develop healthier eating habits.
This summer, hospital Health and Wellness staff and registered dietitians will be teaming up to present a series of lessons and interactive learning activities designed to introduce kids to the protective and heal- ing powers of whole foods.
“The goal is to teach the kids about the power of plant foods, and it’s to really help them not just learn about it but to practice and realize that eating the right foods today can help prevent cancer and other illnesses in the future,” said Mary Marshall, a registered nurse and wellness coach at the Dover hospital.
During the program, which is based on the SuperKids Nutrition program developed by the American Institute of Cancer Research, participating students will learn about the nutritional benefits of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans, while helping prepare delicious and healthy treats.
“Some of the things we do is talk about eating whole plant foods and what is in those plant foods that helps our health, like phytochemicals and fiber,” Marshall explained. “We have lessons, so there’s learn- ing, but there’s also hands on.”
Marshall noted that the program also offers opportunities for participants to try new foods, which was a big hit with the kids when the program was offered for the first time earlier in the year. “We started bringing in just kind of different, weird stuff, so really exposing them to different foods like ginger root of kohlrabi or different things,” she shared. “I wasn’t sure how that would go over, but they really loved trying new things.”
Initially held in February and March as a six-week program for students in grades K-8, Marshall noted that the program has since been reformatted into a shorter, three-week program that will be offered twice this summer – once for students entering grades 2-5 and once for students entering grades 6-8.
Marshall explained that one of the reasons the program was reformatted was so the course material and activities could be customized for different age groups. “We just thought for some of the older kids when you’ re really slowing things down, for the little ones it’s a little bit boring,” Marshall explained.
During the first week of the program, participating students in both age groups will learn about the nutrients found in different fruits and vegetables during a session titled “Eat the Rainbow of Whole Foods.”
“That’s sort of part of the lesson plan all the time, all the good stuff that is in whole foods and how important they are,” Marshall explained. “The first week we introduce that and kind of expose them to how different colored food can have different kinds of nutrients.”
Students will also learn skills to help them in the store. “We teach them how to look for the whole grain stamp and how to read labels just a little bit, and we talk about the relationship of whole grains and fiber to heart disease as well.” During the final session, students will learn about plant-based sources of protein and how to build strong bones and muscles. “We look at your good sources of plant protein, things like beans, and a lot of your greens have protein, and we tie in that you need to build muscle and bones and a strong heart with exercise along with eating the right kinds of food,” Marshall said.
Registration is currently being accepted for both age groups. The program will be offered for students entering grades 2-5 on June 12, 19 and 26 and for students entering grades 6-8 on July 10, 17 and 24. Sessions run from 10 to 11:15 a.m. and are held in the hospital’s Toomey Conference Room.
The cost to participate in the program is $10 per students, or a maximum of $20 per family, and includes all three sessions.
Registration is available online by visiting the hospital’s website at www.unionhospital.org and clicking on the “Health Events” section, or by calling 330-343-3311 ext. 2197.
For Information about Cleveland Clinic Union Hospital and its services, visit the hospital website or look for @Union_Hospital on Facebook and Twitter.