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Weston Fights Obesity With Healthy Choices

WESTON, Conn. – With more than 25 percent of Connecticut's children between the ages of 10 and 17 qualifying as obese, Weston schools are working to provide healthy options and tracking devices for parents of students who buy school meals."In Weston, we don't see as much obesity as in other parts of the country, but we do have a lot of kids taking medication daily for chronic illnesses, emotional and behavioral issues," Amy Kalafa of Weston said in an email to The Daily Weston. She reported in her book, "Lunch Wars," that students who eat school lunches don't perform as well in class and have a higher percentage of obesity.On average, American school children will eat more than 2,300 lunches during their primary and secondary educations. If they are opting into school lunch programs, what the school district serves dictates much of their long-term nutrition.Weston Public Schools uses Café Prepay, which allows parents to pay for school food. It enables them to track their child's account balance and to view the student's participation report – which means parents can monitor their child's spending and see exactly what he or she is eating each day, according to the school's website ."I wish parents would take a good hard look at what their kids are eating before running to the doctor for drugs," said Kalafa. "That includes taking a look at what kids are eating in school. And I don't mean reading the menu. When we teach kids from a very early age to eat real food, they develop a preference for it."Chartwells Food Service offers Weston students lunch, which includes the main entrée, a side dish, one milk and unlimited fruits and vegetables, excluding potatoes. Additional drinks and snacks can also be purchased a la carte. A registered dietician evaluates meals. Whole grain rolls, natural cheese, a minimum of four choices for fruits and vegetables, Boar's Head meat, Barilla PLUS pasta and organic snacks are just some of the options , according to the school's website. The schools also purchase locally grown vegetables and host a student-run garden."Parents need to look at the ingredients of the many, many processed items that their kids eat every day, in the cafeteria, the classroom and at home," said Kalafa. "Kids and families need to learn how to switch to a diet of real, whole, fresh foods; this is an educational issue and our schools can and should play an important role."According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overweight and obese kids are at increased risk of multiple health problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and fatty liver disease. And this is to say nothing of the potential psychological effects of being an overweight child. Additionally, the CDC finds that children who are overweight are more likely to become overweight or obese adults.

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