$n$ SOUND MIND, SOUND BODY: It's action time in fight against juvenile obesity

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Everyone knows child obesity rates are skyrocketing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years. In 2008, more than a third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

None of this is data should shock you, and it is has been discussed at length in several different forums. What is important now is fixing the problem.

One solution is nutrition.

It is important for children to understand what various foods are and make the correct decisions about eating. What if children knew what an apple was before they knew what a Skittle was? Or what if they new what a Skittle was but chose the apple instead -- that should be the goal.

"It's all about making the right choices. Many times kids are not able to choose what is purchased at the grocery store, and have limited options," said Crystal Holmes, a physical education and health teacher at Walla Walla High School.

"Kids still need to take responsibility for what they put in their bodies. Proper education and exposure is helpful in beginning their approach to a healthy lifestyle," she said.

If eating right isn't appealing just for the health benefits, it is even more appealing due to its direct influence on academic achievement.

According to Morbidity and Morality Weekly Report (ubne.ws/rbbpXJ), healthy eating habits help increase school attendance, lengthen attention span, increase work capacity and much more.

The following tips are recommended by the American Heart Association:

Reduce the number of meals eaten outside the home.

Have structured times for family meals.

Offer healthier, low-calorie foods.

Involve children in meal planning, shopping, and food preparation.

What if kids knew how to cook? We all live busy lives, but the importance of what goes into our bodies deserves some time and thought.

It doesn't have to be complicated, in fact the simpler the better. Kids don't only learn by reading but also by doing. Getting kids in the kitchen and to the grocery store gives them a glimpse of the process.

Kids take pride in what they do, and would be more likely to eat something healthy if they cooked it themselves rather than if told to eat something.

Local chef and YMCA instructor Melissa Davis says it's important to be a role model for kids by eating healthy foods.

She recommends the following tips in helping to engage kids in the kitchen:

Introduce new foods.

Go to an ethnic grocery store or aisle in your favorite grocery store.

Look up new recipes together.

Teach simple cooking techniques, such as peeling.

Have your child pick out an interesting vegetable or fruit to try.

Eat a rainbow of foods.

Alyssa Latham received her degree in kinesiology and physical education from the College of Idaho. She has taught high school health and fitness and was the head girl's soccer coach at Wa-Hi. At Whitman College she was assistant women's basketball coach, instructor and strength and conditioning coach. She is youth development director at the YMCA.

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