Several families came to the school's cafeteria last week for the After School Snack Attacks Program with holistic nutritionist, Barbara Ann Grova, CHHC. Children and their parents got to taste test healthier versions of kids' favorite snacks.
This was part of the , which is an innovative, fun-filled and interactive nutrition and fitness program, in its first year, sponsored by the Lynwood PTA. It started in October and will run through March.
A large turnout of parents and children attended for the opportunity to learn helpful hints from Grova, a certified holistic health counselor, and the founder and director of a thriving wellness practice with offices in Ronkonkoma and St. James. She is dedicated to assisting families in leading more healthful and satisfying lives through personalized nutritional and weight loss programs.
"I'm going to teach them how to be nutrition detectives, and show them what ingredients to be aware of that are unhealthy," Grova said. The children were told that in order to be a nutrition detective, they have to learn how to be a spy.
Kids volunteered to be blindfolded and taste test wholesome variations on familiar treats such as apples dunked in almond butter in lieu of peanut butter.
"Almond butter is better for the heart," said Grova. Children were seen happily munching on crunchy slices of apple dipped in gooey goodness. "I teach parents how to disguise healthy foods, but lots of times you don't have to — if you just replace healthier versions of foods they already eat."
The savvy nutritional counselor advised parents to do similar blind tastings at home to make healthy eating seem like a game. Grova told the children, "You don't have to love everything, but the most important thing is to try it."
One of the reasons the obesity rate is so high in our country is that most people don't take the time to look at ingredients according to Grova, which is where developing a keen eye for detail becomes an invaluable tool on the path to optimal health and wellness. "If you want to become a nutrition detective, you have to look at the back ingredients when shopping," she said.
Kids were on the edge of their seats at the prospect of becoming a "spy kid." The playful nutritionist said, "The front of the box tries to fake you out; the front of the box equals a fantasy. It's like a commercial. The truth is on the nutrition facts label on the back." She encouraged the junior dietary detectives to bring magnifying glasses with them when they go to the supermarket.
At the end of the session the children were delighted to be invited to make their own trail mix from raisins, which contain iron; heart healthy almonds; dairy-free chocolate chips that are chock-full of antioxidants; and Cheerios, which Grova informed is one of the best cereals out there. It is filled with omega- 3 and omega- 6 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation and are essential to maintaining a healthy body.
Christine Olsen, co-president of the Lynwood PTA brought her son, D.J., a fourth grader at the school.
"He's excited to get different ideas on healthier snacks, because they come home starving like they didn't eat all day," she said.
Foods were introduced that many had never heard of and were eager to try such as quinoa, the highest protein whole grain source. It's gluten-free and high in fiber.
The newly indoctrinated nutrition detectives were left with some pivotal clues for their subsequent investigations such as to be on the lookout for culinary culprits like partially hydrogenated fats(also called "fractionated" or "hydrogenated") — fully hydrogenated fats are not a heart threat — because these trans fats are worse for your heart than saturated fats; and to avoid high-fructose corn syrup which may upset the body's metabolism, raising the risk for heart disease and diabetes and to remember that "fiber is your friend."
Grova admonished children and their parents to remember this key component to maintaining health: "What you eat really matters. Food can be good, and good for you. You can eat better just by making better choices; to make better choices you must be a good nutrition spy."