Las Vegas – Using the Department of Agriculture’s ChooseMyPlate.gov program to guide elementary school lunch programs can motivate positive trends in student dietary patterns, results of a small pilot study suggests.
Over the past 30 years, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents, according to the CDC. Approximately 32% of U.S. children and adolescents are overweight and 17% are obese.
To explore options for reversing these trends, Angelina Harman, DNP, FNP-BC, of George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, used the online nutrition guide to assess the eating habits of children from kindergarten through sixth grade in a rural elementary school in West Virginia. The state has the third highest obesity rates in the nation.
The twelve-week pilot program sought to evaluate any changes in food choices and growth parameters.
“Given the amount of time children spend in school, a school-based education program may be an ideal venue for curbing the trend to obesity,” Harman said during a poster presentation at the AANP 2013 National Conference.
The program included meeting students once a week to discuss health and exercise habits for a total of three sessions. BMI, height, weight and waist circumference were measured and eating habits were obtained at baseline and again after week twelve.
Overweight children (greater than or equal to the 85th percentile) who participated in the program experienced significantly greater decreases in waist circumference than children with normal-range BMI, Harman found.
All study participants consumed less soda and more milk, fruit and vegetables, but particularly overweight children.
“Although this was a small pilot study, these data suggest that implementing a nutritional educational program in the school system has the potential to improve behavior habits and improve their overall health,” Harman concluded.