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Preschool Intervention Curbed Trend Toward Obesity
Date:3/12/2008

Kids in program ate less junk food, more fruits and vegetables

WEDNESDAY, March 12 (HealthDay News) -- A preschool-based weight control intervention program instilled healthy eating habits in children aged 2 to 5, a new study shows.

The study, by researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, included children from ethnically diverse, low-income families who went to eight subsidized child-care centers in Miami Dade County. The children were assigned to either an intervention or a control group.

Those in the intervention group received a six-month home- and preschool-based obesity prevention program. The preschool part of the program included the following menu modifications and education:

  • The menu promoted water as the primary beverage for children and staff; offered only skim or 1 percent milk; limited juices and other sweetened beverages; and included fruits and vegetables as snacks as often as possible.
  • Teachers were educated weekly about how to incorporate lessons about nutrition and physical activity and how to better understand and overcome children's cognitive, cultural and environmental barriers to implementing a healthy low-fat, high-fiber diet.

The family part of the program, designed to reinforce what the children learned at day care, included: monthly parent dinners to educate parents about food labels, portion sizes and the food guide pyramid; newsletters that featured topics such as picky eaters, healthy cooking tips, healthy fast food choices, and recipes for healthy snacks; and at-home activities such as sampling different vegetables and various types of lower-fat milks.

When they compared the children in the study group to those in the control group, the researchers concluded that the program is an effective obesity prevention strategy.

"While 68.4 percent of children were at normal weight at the start of the study, this increa
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