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Kids learn to eat, play healthy

Lily Frohman, 6, and Hayden Palm, 4, grab for an apple during the Sanford Health-sponsored healthy kids event.1 / 2
Sanford personnel, including nutritionist Sue Martodam, right, with some help from physical therapist Kerry Petsinger, kneeling, talks to kids about the food pyramid and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.2 / 2

Childhood obesity awareness is one of the top initiatives of Sanford Health. Through a grant, Sanford and the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center hosted kids grades K-5 and their families to an evening of healthy food, information and prizes.

"We thought if we could get 20-30 kids out, great," DLCCC Director of Development Terry Haus said.

Instead, about 75 showed up.

Sanford Physical Therapist Kerry Petsinger talked to kids about the activities they could be doing to stay active, even in the winter, and how to cut back on their screen time -- time spent in front of televisions, computers, cells phones, etc.

"Active play is moving and playing at the same time," she said, giving examples like kickball, basketball and asking for suggestions from the kids.

It's recommended that kids take 12,000 steps a day. Each kid was given a pedometer to count their steps and to challenge their parents to see who can walk more in a day.

Kids should have at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, which also helps with balance and control. It's been proven that kids who are more physically active do better academically and have fewer discipline issues.

To reduce screen time, Petsinger said, don't allow children to have a television in their bedroom, and "don't use it as a reward or punishment. It makes TV seem more important," she said.

Along with healthy activity is healthy eating. After being offered a meal of Subway sandwiches, apples and oranges and milk, Sanford Nutritionist Sue Martodam talked to kids about the different food groups and the importance of eating right.

Half of a child's intake should be fruits and vegetables, she said, and the more deeper, darker colors, the better. Kids should also get their grains, dairy, protein and a small amount of fat.

She encouraged kids to grocery shop with their parents and pick out their own healthy foods.

Sanford Psychologist Brian Gatheridge said healthy behavior is another key to healthy living for kids.

"People eat in response to emotions," he said, listing boredom, depression and sadness as some of those emotions. "Eating doesn't have anything to do with hunger."

Staying active and parents making sure their children are loved and appreciated are important, as is being a role model when it comes to healthy eating.

"Parents, be a good role model for kids. You can't be chomping down on a Big Mac and expect kids to eat their fruits and vegetables."

Obesity has tripled over the last 20 years. If one parent struggles with eating, their child has a 50 percent chance of having that same struggle. If both parents struggle, the child has an 80 percent chance of struggling with healthy eating.