Kids Talk about Healthy Eating

Energy in-energy out. (Manuel, age 11)

I don’t feel like walking when my backpack is really full. Sometimes it gets so heavy because I forget to clean it out. I just keep putting things in without taking out books I’ve already read, old homework assignments, food wrappers and other stuff that I don’t need to be hauling around. My mom keeps telling me, “Just carry what you need.”  I’m starting to think about food that way. I eat the foods my body really needs, and when I forget or have a craving to eat the ones it doesn’t need-like cookies and chips-I try to take the stairs instead of the elevator, or walk the last five blocks home instead of staying on the bus.

I like to pick my own sneakers and dress a certain way. My mom says that eating right means making sure your plate is wearing the right colors. (Alex, age 9)

When I dress, I like to stick to my favorite colors-blue and yellow. But when I serve myself food, I try to get as many colors on my plate as I can because each color has its own “magical powers” (Okay, they’re really just vitamins and nutrients). It turns out that orange and dark green are some of the most powerful. And one way I keep from eating too many of the wrong foods is by making sure that half my plate is covered with colorful fruits or vegetables.

The one time I don’t want to be multi-tasking: when I’m eating. (Alisha, age 13)

My parents don’t understand how I can be checking text messages, doing homework, IMing, and listening to music all at the same time. I can, though.  Really.  But one thing I’ve learned recently: if I’m eating while watching TV or YouTube videos, I don’t pay attention to how much I’m eating.  All of sudden I’m like, I just ate a whole box of crackers.  Everyone eats stuff on the go sometimes, but now I’m trying to eat my meals and snacks on a plate or in a bowl and not do anything else while I’m eating except enjoy my food.  Being focused on my food lets me see how much I’m eating and be sure that most of what I’m eating really is fuel.  Put the wrong thing in your gas tank and your car won’t run.

Let’s Move (Chris, age 15)

It’s true that I spend a lot of time sitting-too much time: in class, in front of the television or the computer, or in the car to and from school. Mrs. Obama has been telling kids (and their parents) that they need to get moving to stay healthy.  So now I’ve made myself some rules that I stick to pretty regularly: for every 30 minutes I am sitting down, I do 30 jumping jacks or 30 sit-ups. I call it “doing my 30s.” I can’t do 30 push ups yet, but you know what? I’m working on it! The funny thing is that instead of feeling tired after my “30s,” I feel like I have more energy.

Saving calories is like saving money to buy something special (Jesse, age 10)

I don’t like to use up my spending money on stuff I don’t need.  And nothing makes me more upset than losing money, like sometimes I’ll pull something out of my pocket and drop a dollar bill without noticing.  It’s all right to drink a soda when you really feel like it or when you’re at a party, but drinking soft drinks, sugary ice tea, and sports drinks just because you’re thirsty is like throwing money away-not just because of what they cost, but because they’re a waste of calories.  Water has no calories, and at home and school you can usually get it for free.  If you want to stay healthy, save up your calories for foods and beverages that keep you feeling full and satisfied-food and beverages that give you the vitamins and nutrients you need.  When I’m thirsty I stick to water or 1% milk.

I’m down with brown (Keesha, 16)

Bread, spaghetti, rice.  Whatever it is, I ask for it “brown,” because that means it’s whole grain.  Nothing has been taken away-none of the nutrition and none of the flavor.  And when I drink milk or eat yogurt or ice cream, I get reduced fat or fat-free. I get all the taste without the calories or saturated fat (that’s the kind of fat you don’t want to eat too much of-it’s in food that comes from animals, like meat, cheese, butter, and other stuff made from milk).  Remember this: low fat is all that!

Reading for a reason (Khalil, age 14)

Reading can save your life. We all need to be able to read the directions on a medicine bottle because medicine can make you feel better and even cure you-if you use it right. Too much medicine can poison you. Too much of the wrong foods and the wrong ingredients can poison your body. That’s why I’ve started looking at the writing on food packages. I don’t read everything but I at least look at how much sodium, how much sugar, and how much fat is in those crackers or cookies.  I don’t want to eat half of the fat I’m supposed to eat in one day in just one snack!  Even fast food restaurants have that kind of information available, and if it’s not posted, you can ask where to find out how much fat is in those fries.  We all have a right to know-that’s what getting an education is about.