Philly Schools Cut Weight
Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Philly Schools Cut Weight

I read this story about 5 Philadelphia elementary schools who made some positive nutrition changes in the Washington Post the other day. I was so impressed with the results that I thought I would write about it and help to spread the word.

These schools made simple changes:
  • Replaced soda with fruit juice, water, and milk
  • Handed out raffle tickets for wise food choices (and won bikes and jump ropes)
  • Taught parents, staff, and kids about good nutrition
  • Snacks had to meet limits for fat, salt, and sugar
  • Parents substituted fruit salad for baked goods at a fundraiser
  • Children urged to exercise at activity stations during recess
  • Food labels were used in classrooms to help teach fractions (LOVE IT!)

Grace McGinley, one of the school nurses said, "We found when you give children healthy choices, they pick them."

To me, this statement says it all. I hear so often from parents that their kids will only eat junk food. But kids actually like fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains if they are offered to them at an early age. I am not suggesting that potato chips and cookies will never pass by the lips of a child. But we can teach them that those things are "treats" and not everyday foods. One 10-year old girl was quoted in the article saying potato chips were still her favorite snack, but she now gets the little bag. Small steps lead to big results.

These schools were actually part of a research study, and the results are published in the April issue of Pediatrics. They found that after two years of following these kids with the changes in the schools, the overall number of overweight kids dropped 10% and at "control" schools that had no intervention the number rose a quarter to 20%. The study tested a program called The Food Trust, a local nonprofit which works to improve access to affordable, healthy food.

BRAVO to the researchers and these five Philadelphia schools. We have a long way to go in this fight against childhood obesity in America, but these results are extremely promising!

For more information on The Food Trust, visit

Photo courtesy of The Food Trust
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Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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