By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterMay 8, 2014
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 8, 2014) -- Childhood obesity is an epidemic sweeping the nation, but Fort Rucker is taking the fight to the front by teaching its youth healthy habits early on.
The Fort Rucker Child, Youth and School Services held its Youth Health and Nutrition Fair at the School Age Center April 30 as a way to help children learn how to get a head start on a healthy lifestyle through education, said Gina Vaughan, CYSS nurse.
"We're here because we want to raise awareness and show the children what they can do to improve their health," she said. "We want to teach them healthy habits now and start incorporating them in their lives so it's not something that they have to deal with when they're 30 years old and possibly overweight with high blood pressure."
During the health fair, children were able have their blood pressure, height, weight, hearing and sight checked, and there were tables set up for children to visit where they could learn about dental health, fitness programs, nutrition and more.
Nutrition is one of the main factors when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, and Deborah Reyes, CYSS nutritionist, was on hand to make sure children understood the fundamentals of nutrition.
"We always try to provide healthy menus for the children, but it's very important to teach them how to eat healthy on their own, so we're here providing the tools for them to do so," said Reyes. "It's all about exposure. There are so many things out there that children are exposed to and if we don't teach them about it, how will they learn?"
To give the children an idea of what healthy eating consists of, Reyes prepared healthy fruit smoothies for them to try, as well as showed them how she prepared them.
"I know children like smoothies and there's always a healthier way to make them, so I prepared a healthy, dairy-free, allergy-free recipe for them," she said.
The banana-mango smoothie contained lactose-free milk and apple juice as a natural sweetener instead of added sugar, and it proved a big hit during the event.
"It's important to add real ingredients and, so far, the children have liked it a lot," said the nutritionist. "It's all about putting the right stuff into their bodies."
Reyes hopes that the children will take what they learned about nutrition and bring home the healthy habits to their Family and friends.
"Healthy eating starts at a very young age, so as long as you teach them good habits while they're young, they'll develop and teach others," she said. "I've done a lot of nutrition education in the community, and when you engage kids in preparing their own foods and teach them about new ingredients, they're more (inclined) to try new things."
Trying new things is what the health fair was all about, and Shanna Davis, military spouse and mother of two, said new is something she wanted to expose her children to.
"I just wanted to come out here with my children because I want them to see the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, even when they're young," she said. "When children are young, they really think they're invincible, and they might even seem that way to a point. But when you grow up, you obviously see that's not the case, so I want my children to be ready when they get older and make good habits when it comes to health and exercise."
Davis said she tries to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible by making sure she exercises by running daily, but admits that nutrition and healthy eating habits are hard for her to maintain at times.
"That's why I want my children to get started in those habits early, and I can tell them every day to eat their greens or eat less junk food, but when they hear things like this from professionals, it's more likely to stick with them," she said. "I'm just glad that Fort Rucker does something like this for our youth because you see this for adults all the time, so why not for the youth? It just shows that they really care about the Families here on post, and for that I'm grateful."