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March 03
PSA shows how reading the nutrition labels can lead to good health


Buying healthy drinks for your family can be very confusing. That’s because the words you may find on the front of a bottle don’t always tell you what’s in the drink. They don’t tell you about the large amount of sugar that can be hiding inside.

Pick up a bottle of a sugary drink and the front label may use words that make the drink sound healthy: Father Shopping Ad 140605 Sagaya's City Market-0195 web250x.jpg
“Loaded with vitamins.”
“Hydrating.”
“All natural flavors.”
The key is to check the back of the bottle. That’s typically where you’ll find the drink’s nutritional label and ingredient list.
This is the main message in Play Every Day’s new public service announcement running on TV stations in communities across Alaska. The PSA features a dad shopping in a grocery store with his children. When the kids pull a powdered drink and a vitamin-enhanced drink from the store shelf, the dad turns the bottles around and shows them the ingredient list. If sweeteners are listed as one of the first three ingredients, the drink is loaded with sugar.
When you’re looking for sugar on the ingredient list, watch out for other words. Sweeteners go by many names, including common ones like honey and syrup, as well as high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, dextrose and fruit nectar.
Next time you shop with your children, look for sodas, powdered drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks on the shelves. Turn the bottles around and show your kids the ingredient lists. Help them find the added sugars and ask them if these sugars are listed among the first three ingredients.
Your kids will become smart shoppers and smart consumers. By choosing to buy and drink water and low-fat or fat-free milk, you are teaching your children about the importance of healthy drinks.
February 25
Organized recess means playground fun at Sitka school

When you send kids outside to play at recess, they know what to do, right?

They know to be active, have a good time, include everyone else in the game?

Baranof Elementary School, a Sitka school that teaches about 250 preschool through first-grade students, started a structured recess program in the fall of 2013 because staff realized that not all children knew what to do on the playground, or how to start up games with other kids. Ramon Quevedo, student success coordinator with the Sitka School District, said most of the referrals to the principal’s office came from conflicts on the playground. Conflicts that started on the playground would come into the classroom, making it difficult for the children to learn, he said. RecessPhotoPED.jpg

To help children play and reduce behavior problems, Sitka used federal grant funding to hire a nonprofit organization called Playworks to visit the Sitka school and help staff and students start organized play. By the end of the 2013-14 school year, Baranof saw a 50 percent reduction in playground-related behavior referrals, Quevedo said.

Playworks’ mission is that every child can play, every day. “On our playgrounds, everyone plays, everyone belongs and everyone contributes to the game,” said the Playworks website. Staff from Playworks visit schools like Baranof Elementary to train school staff on how to run an organized recess program and teach safe games that any child is able to play.

Quevedo said the Playworks rules on the playground are simple: “Be respectful. Be safe. Have fun.”

Kids are encouraged to make new friends while they are learning new games, he said. Playworks uses simple tools like rock-paper-scissors to help children settle conflicts. Playworks encourages adults on the playground to get out and play with the kids, not just stand and watch.

When recess is over, a staff member blows a whistle and everyone stands still, Quevedo said.

“It’s just an easy way for them to transition and get ready to come back to the classroom,” he said. At Baranof, they call its “Freeze, Knees” — when all the kids stop moving and grab their knees. Then they high-five the kids who have been playing with them.

“It’s something really simple,” Quevedo said. “It’s really contagious. They just love to give high-fives.”

The Sitka School District is one of eight districts across Alaska that received a grant from the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program to improve nutrition and physical activity options for students. Playworks has been so successful at improving physical activity at Baranof Elementary that the Sitka School District completed another Playworks training session for Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary, the school that teaches grades 2 through 5 in Sitka, Quevedo said.

February 11
Double your Play Every Day with the Ski 4 Kids and Frostbite Footrace

Looking for fun ways to get your kids active this month? Clear your calendar on Saturday, February 28, because there are two family events in the Anchorage area.

Ski4Kids 2014 045 cropped resized.jpgSign up your children for the annual Ski 4 Kids event at Kincaid Park in Anchorage. Children through age 14 can participate in a 3K timed or untimed ski race, and parents are welcome to ski along, too. Every child finishes with a medal. Children can also try snowshoeing, orienteering, obstacle courses and more. Indoor events at the chalet and outdoor events in the park start at 12:30 p.m. The ski race begins at 1:30 p.m.Ski4Kids 2014 042 resized single skier.jpg

Families can register for Ski 4 Kids online, or register the day of the event. There is no set participant fee, but donations are recommended. Proceeds benefit the Anchorage Parks and Recreation’s ski outreach program and a Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage grant program that provides ski equipment to schools and youth organizations.

Got a costume and no place to wear it? Put it on and join the Frostbite Footrace and Costume Fun Run February 28 in downtown Anchorage. The Fur Rondy event is designed for “hardy” Alaskans prepared for any weather. People of all ages and abilities can sign up for 5K or 2K fun runs that start at 9:30 a.m. The race course begins near the Fifth Avenue Skywalk and ends at Sixth Avenue and H Street. Register for the footrace online before February 25; the registration fee for children is at a lower rate. Participants also can register the morning of the race.

Which event will you choose? The good news is you can do both. With the Frostbite Footrace in the morning and the Ski 4 Kids in the afternoon, you can get out and play all day.

January 27
Healthy Futures elementary school coordinator talks about the year so far

Guest blog by Shelley Romer, the elementary school program coordinator for Healthy Futures.

It’s been an exciting first half of the 2014/15 school year for
Healthy Futures.

Our program had a record number of students from 173 Alaska schools participate in the Fall 2014 Healthy Futures Challenge — nearly 18,500 kids, in fact. The Spring Healthy Futures Challenge starts this Sunday, Feb. 1. We already have 188 schools signed up with an open invitation for more.

As the new ElemShellyRomerJanBlog.jpegentary School Program Coordinator for Healthy Futures, I have been pleased to see how hard-working and enthusiastic everyone has been in raising the bar to develop the habit of daily physical activity. So many people have contributed to getting Alaska children physically active by keeping track of activity logs, entering data into the Healthy Futures database, and distributing prizes. It’s a lot of work, but we have teachers, community members, and parents who go above and beyond what it takes to help get kids excited about being active and healthy.

It helps to have amazing Alaska athletes cheering kids on. We kicked off this school year by supporting the Anchorage School District’s elementary school Jamborees. Our Healthy Heroes — Olympians Kikkan Randall and Holly Brooks, the APU Nordic Ski Team, the UAA Cross Country Running Team, and many other local athletes — made the events even more special by providing some truly inspiring and motivating energy. It was amazing to stand in front of a group of kids who had just warmed up with our Healthy Heroes and were ready to get the race started. Then… they were off!! 

Determination and gumption flew by as kids ran toward the finish line. Regardless of whether they finished first or last, thousands of kids were giving it everything they had while being cheered on by the crowd and our local athletes. 

Here at Healthy Futures, we definitely practice what we teach. I enjoy rock climbing, hiking, running, skiing of all kinds, playing outside with my nieces and nephews, and just getting outside to walk and clear my head or catch up with friends and family. My coworkers are amazing mountain runners, triathletes, skiers, and people who just like to get out and move. We know the importance of integrating activity into our daily lives, but we also know how fun it is, the benefits of challenging ourselves, how much better we feel when we move, and how great it is to be a part of a community.

We know that research shows a link between the lack of activity and health-related problems like obesity and diabetes. With so many things pointing to more sedentary lifestyles, it can seem a little daunting to address these issues, but kids are meant to move and they love to move. It is up to us to provide and support an environment that promotes what they do naturally.

Please join us and support your children and your students as they participate in the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge and get out and play, every day.


January 20
District greenhouse puts fresh produce into Gateway schools

More than 300 miles up the Glenn Highway from Anchorage, a school district greenhouse promises a bounty of healthy produce for hundreds of Alaska school children.

The Alaska Gateway School District built the 33- by 96-foot greenhouse in Tok to grow and supply produce to all seven schools in the district. The district serves 370 students in Tok, Dot Lake, Eagle, Tetlin, Tanacross, Mentasta Lake and Northway. AK Gateway greenhouse.jpeg

The greenhouse project – funded through several sources, including district funds, a legislative appropriation and a federal U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm-to-School grant – reduces the amount of food the schools need to import and transport.

“Having it locally has made a big difference in how fresh the food is,” said Bonnie Emery, Alaska Gateway’s horticulturist.

Emery said the first planting went in the greenhouse in the spring of 2014, the year after its construction. The interior space allows her to grow fruits and vegetables in Interior Alaska almost all year. This year, she grew strawberries, melons, spinach, kale, different types of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, cabbage, beans, snap peas and more.

“I still have things growing in the greenhouse,” said Emery in December when she was still growing spinach, tomatoes, turnip greens and celery.

The Biomass Heating Plant in Tok uses trees removed to prevent wildfires to heat and power Tok School, including the greenhouse, which also runs additional heaters and grow lights to continue gardening through the winter.  “At this point, it’s sort of an experiment to see how far we can go,” said Emery.

In January, greenGreenhouse3 resized.jpghouse staff reported that temperatures in Tok dipped to minus 40 degrees, and yet the greens, spinach and celery inside the greenhouse stayed alive.

Needless to say, the Alaska Gateway greenhouse also provides an ongoing learning opportunity. Students at Tok School start seeds in the classroom and transplant them to the greenhouse, and all district students can tour the greenhouse to learn how fruits and vegetables are planted, harvested and then served at schools, said Scott MacManus, assistant superintendent for the district. “All the kids from the whole district will do field trips to the school and go to the greenhouse and see how it works,” he noted.

MacManus said the district would like to work with the state’s university system to start an arctic agriculture program that focuses on what grows best in northern communities like Tok. Alaska Gateway is one of eight school districts across Alaska that received a grant from the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program to improve nutrition and physical activity options for students.

For more information about Alaska Gateway’s greenhouse, visit https://www.facebook.com/akgatewaygreenhouse.

 

Photos courtesy of Alaska Gateway School District

January 13
Why the sugar in 100 percent fruit juice adds up 


If it comes from fruit, it must be healthy, right? When eating fresh, raw fruit, then yes, absolutely.

But not when drinking 100 percent fruit juice, which lacks much of the fiber and nutrients that makes fruit healthy for us in the first place: 

Fruit juice “is just aGlassesJuice.jpgs full of calories as the whole food but filters out lots of the fiber and micro-nutrients and delivers all the sugar and calories in liquid form that does not make you feel full,” said Dr. Susan Beesley, a pediatrician with the Anchorage Pediatric Group. “Also, juice is horrible for teeth. Because of its sugar content, it causes lots of cavities, especially if it is used as a drink that is available to children constantly throughout the day or night.”

Too much 100 percent fruit juice, along with other sugary drinks, contributes to obesity and tooth decay in Alaska — where one out of three Alaska children is overweight or obese and cavity rates are high.

People “think that since fruit is healthy, fruit juice must also be healthy,” said Beesley. Plus, “kids tend to like juice (because it is so sugary), so parents think they are giving something healthy to their kids that they also like.”

Some juices contain nearly as much sugar as soda, with as much as 16 teaspoons in a 20-ounce portion, or nearly twice the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommended maximum of eight teaspoons of added sugar a day for the average adult. Plus, Beesley added, kids who get in a routine of consuming sugary juices can carry that habit over their lifetimes by drinking other sugary drinks, like soda, sports drinks or energy drinks.

Studies show that consuming added sugars can lead to unhealthy weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. That’s why pediatricians recommend water as the default drink for kids, with fat-free and low-fat milk as nutritional alternatives. GRC42546-Beesley Susan.jpg

 “I do not think kids should drink any juice,” said Beesley, “but if they must, it should be given in a small volume with a meal.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 4 to 6 ounces (1/2 to ¾ cup) of 100% fruit juice per day for young children. Beesley also discourages serving sugar-free juices or alternatives “because I think they will get kids used to drinking sweet beverages.”

(Photo courtesy Dr. Susan Beesley)

Otherways to limit juice consumption include making it available only on special occasions, like when traveling by plane or when going out to dinner. Diluting juice with water helps reduce sugar intake, but it still means saturating teeth in sugar, said Beesley.

By not buying and serving juice at home and limiting consumption elsewhere, parents help kids establish good habits for drinking water and maintaining a healthy weight. Healthy kids should drink two cups of fat-free or low fat milk each day and lots of water, nothing more.

December 30
It starts with you – model good health and kids will follow

Science tells us that too much added sugar can lead to unhealthy weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay and other unhealthy outcomes, even in young children. Eating and drinking added sugar contributes to obesity and comes at a significant price: Alaska spends about $459 million a year on obesity-related medical expenses, and the cost to our children’s health impacts their quality of life.

What can we do to help our children build a healthy foundation?

Well, our kids learn their habits from us. They do what we do. The best way to get them to play outside is to go outside with them. The best way to get them to eat right is to eat healthy meals beside them. And since Americans consume nearly half their added sugar from sugary drinks, the easiest and most effective way to cut down on added sugar is to stop drinking them. ItStartswithYou.resized.blog.jpg

“If you or your child drinks just one can of soda a day, you or he will drink more than 3,500 teaspoons of added sugar by the end of the year,” noted Diane Peck, a public health nutritionist with the Obesity Prevention and Control Program in the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “That’s more than 30 pounds of sugar.”

In the health department’s new public service announcement called It Starts With Me, a mother reflects on how her habits influence her daughter’s: “At first I didn’t think how my soda habit could affect her health, but when I noticed the extra pounds I put on due to my daily habit, and that I’m putting myself at risk for diabetes and heart disease, I began to wonder… what are sugary drinks doing to her?”

Beverages like soda, sports and energy drinks, vitamin-enhanced drinks, fruit-flavored or powdered drinks, and sweetened teas, coffees and milks add sugars and calories with little or no nutrients. Some of these drinks can contain as much as 16 teaspoons of sugar in just 20 ounces, twice the maximum amount of added sugar (8 teaspoons) recommended for the average adult by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Want your kids to stay healthy? Start by reducing or eliminating the sugary drinks you buy, serve and consume. After all, good health habits start with you.

December 22
How much sugar's in that holiday drink? A latte

Holiday potlucks and break room goodies can add to our waistlines, but wrapping ourselves in festive coats and ugly sweaters only skirts the truth – that during the holidays, we often exceed our fuel needs with a heavy dose of added sugar. 

Consider a holiday favorite, the 16-ounce whole-milk eggnog latte, which weighs in at 460 calories, 22 grams of fat and 6 teaspoons of added sugar.

“That is very similar to a milkshake at most fast food restaurants,” said Diane Peck, a public health nutritionist with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “In comparison, a non-ALatte.12.23.14.jpgfat latte only has 130 calories, no fat and no added sugar.” 

Plus, the sugar in liquids hits the blood stream faster and leads to cravings for more, said Rikki Keen, an adjunct professor for the Department of Health, Physical Education & Recreation at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

“I think people don’t realize that you’re not going to feel full when you drink things,” she said. “Liquids just don’t do that. Those drinks have no fiber, so you’re setting yourself up for another sugar fix soon after.”

Keen, who also works as the team dietician for the UAA Seawolves and an exercise physiologist for other organizations, noted a growing body of science surrounding the impact of sugar on the body. “It should be a real turnaround for folks,” Keen explained. “People will begin to realize that sugar’s not good for the heart, that it contributes to low grade inflammation that leads to a laundry list of disease states that we’re just now finding out.”

So how do you keep the balance in a season of sugar plums and hot cocoa? For starters, said Peck, continue to stay active. (Adults should shoot for at least 2.5 hours of physical activity a week and kids should get physically active 60 minutes a day, every day.) Also, keep eating low calorie foods and drinks like water and fruits and vegetables.

Before going to parties or events, said Keen, eat something nutritious to avoid feeling hungry when walking by the sweet tables.

Most important, commit yourself to tracking what you eat. Grab a notebook, create a document, or upload a free app to log what you consume. Apps work well because they break down the nutritional content of everything you eat and tally the totals.

When you really know what you eat and drink, “it becomes the reality the next day and forces you to be much more aware and accountable,” said Keen.

Do athletes, dieticians and nutritionists partake in holiday sweets now and again? Absolutely, but they do so with intention.

“My go-to treat is my own coffee and I add a bit of regular sugar, milk and whey protein,” said Keen. Other options include going with low or no fat milk and asking for just one shot of syrup.

Peck indulges in holiday treats occasionally, too, but she balances it out with lower calorie drinks “like hot spice tea, no sugar, sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice, or a small ‘skinny tan hot cocoa, no whip.’”

As for the best drink for health and hydration, whatever the season, they agree: Water.

December 08
Our Challenge goal? Signing up half the state's elementary schools


Do you feel inspired by people who set a goal and stick with it until they reach it?

If so, let us introduce you to our partner in physical activity — Healthy Futures. This program has gone from a homegrown effort to get families active to a statewide effort that runs a school-based physical activity challenge motivating thousands of elementary children tHealthy_Futures_Logo_Dec.11.2013.jpgo get active every day.

To support Healthy Futures, Play Every Day urges schools to sign up for the Healthy Futures Challenge and help us reach a significant benchmark:  We have set a goal of getting 200 public elementary schools in Alaska — that’s half — signed up for the spring physical activity challenge in 2015. Schools can sign up for the Challenge now through Dec. 19 at http://database.healthyfuturesak.org.

Reaching this goal will be a remarkable achievement. About 10 years ago, Healthy Futures started with just two Anchorage parents — the late Bonny Sosa Young and Sam Young — who were concerned about the growing obesity problem in Alaska. (One out of 3 Alaska children is overweight or obese.) The couple wanted to improve the health of Alaska children by empowering them to build the habit of daily physical activity. ActiveKidsHealthyFutures10.9.14.jpg

They worked at home and then a small staff joined the program to support low-cost and no-cost physical activity events for families. The program also developed a simple, free physical activity challenge for Alaska elementary schools and students.

Play Every Day got involved three years ago as a partner by supporting the Healthy Futures Challenge with annual funding and promotional resources. The Play Every Day campaign is part of the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program.

Since this partnership, school and student involvement has grown. In the spring of 2011, 36 Alaska elementary schools and 1,342 children participated in the Healthy Futures Challenge; by fall 2014, over 170 schools and 18,000 kids participated — that’s 1 in 4 public elementary students in Alaska.

Healthy Futures now has other financial supporters, too, like Providence Health & Services Alaska, the United Way of Anchorage, ConocoPhillips, and the Alaska Kidney Foundation.

Schools all over Alaska can sign up now for the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge, which will run in February, March and April, 2015. The free, fun challenge rewards students with incentives for being active while giving schools with high student participation small cash grants toward physical activity equipment.

We’re so close to our goal of 200 schools — 173 Alaska schools participated in the Fall 2014 Challenge — and we encourage you to support your kids and schools by asking your schools to sign up for the Healthy Futures Challenge. Parents can also volunteer to help children fill out their physical activity logs and help the school fill in the participation database and turn it in to Healthy Futures each month. They can help hand out prizes to the students when they’ve met their physical activity goals.

It’s no longer just two parents working to help Alaska children be healthier. It’s all of us.

December 02
Sugar by any other name

Many drinks contain added sugars, but knowing how much and in what form can prove tricky when looking at labels. Whether organic or pure, syrup or concentrate, solid or raw, sweeteners of all kinds add sugar to our diets and behave the same way in our bodies.


The liquid sweeteners in sugary drinks lack fiber and move into the bloodstream quickly, and this sugar overload can impact the body’s organs and lead to serious diseases overNutrition Word Cloud No Red 250x250.jpg time.

 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends a maximum of eight teaspoons of added sugar a day for the average adult on a diet of 2,000 calories, but a single 20-ounce bottle of soda contains twice that much. American children and adults consume more than two times the recommended maximum amount of added sugars each day, and nearly half that sugar comes from sodas, sports drink, energy drinks, powdered drinks and fruit-flavored drinks.

 

How can you avoid these added sugars?

 

First, read the ingredient list. If a sweetener is listed as one of the first three ingredients, the drink is loaded with sugar.

 

Second, know how to find sugar by any other name, including these:

 

·        Agave Nectar

·        Barley malt

·        Cane sugar

·        Corn syrup

·        Corn syrup solids

·        Crystalline fructose

·        Dextrose

·        Evaporated cane juice

·        Fructose

·        Fruit juice concentrate

·        Fruit nectar

·        Galactose

·        Glucose

·        High-fructose corn syrup

·        Glucose-fructose syrup

·        Honey

·        Maltose

·        Malt syrup

·        Maple syrup

·        Molasses

·        Brown rice syrup

·        Sucrose

 

Finally, convert the grams of sugar listed on the nutrition facts label into teaspoons. Simply divide the total number of grams of sugar by four to get the number of teaspoons per serving. If a sugary drink label says it has 64 grams per serving, that’s 16 teaspoons of sugar – twice the recommended daily intake of sugar for the average adult.  

 

Keep in mind that many store bought drinks contain more than one serving. If the bottle contains two servings, multiply the number of grams of sugar per serving by two and then divide the total by four. A sugary drink with 32 grams of sugar per serving and two servings per container contains 64 grams or 16 teaspoons of sugar in the entire bottle.

 

Why not choose healthy drinks instead?

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