Learning Care Group Serves Up Recipe for Lifelong Wellness with Grow Fit

Mar 20, 2013, 14:15 ET from Learning Care Group

NOVI, Mich., March 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- What will your preschooler eat at school today?  You might be pleasantly surprised.  Learning Care Group is making a widespread commitment to promoting wellness throughout its portfolio of Childtime, Children's Courtyard, Montessori Unlimited, La Petite Academy and Tutor Time schools nationwide.  In these schools across the U.S., winter squash soup, chicken tetrazzini, hummus (chickpea) dip with homemade whole wheat pita chips and Waldorf fruit salad are all on the menu – and they'll go over big. Thousands of young children will enjoy these and other delicious offerings as they learn to make smart choices regarding what, and how much, they eat.

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The recipe for lifelong wellness can begin in early childhood. That's the philosophy behind Grow Fit, Learning Care Group's comprehensive healthy lifestyle initiative designed to prevent childhood obesity and avoid chronic disease later in life.  Grow Fit provides a clearly defined structure for the company's healthy practices regarding nutrition and physical activity.  It aims to ensure children at the company's 900+ schools have the energy to learn and to position them for future success. 

Children at every Learning Care Group school are developing their palates through a well-balanced menu that features a cornucopia of vegetables, plenty of lean proteins and a host of ethnic foods as well. Through careful planning and role modeling, teachers are making the new food discovery process fun for the children. 

"At Learning Care Group, we're making healthy lifestyles a priority through our Grow Fit initiative," said Dr. Susan Canizares, Chief Academic Officer, Learning Care Group. "As with literacy, kindness and other important life lessons, each of us is a role model. The choices we make regarding physical fitness and nutrition have a lasting impact on the attitudes and behaviors of our children. Adopting a healthier lifestyle is a slow process that involves a lot of patience. Last fall, we learned firsthand what can be accomplished by taking many small steps toward a major objective – and our children led the way."

In September, Learning Care Group surpassed its Grow Fit launch goal of walking to the moon and back in one month.  In just 30 days, children, staff and parents walked a whopping 607,986 miles: to the moon and back and around the world five times.  The following month, more than 75,000 children and staff celebrated Grow Fit with a simultaneous company-wide rendition of "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes."  Check it out at http://www.learningcaregroup.com/parent-resources/blog/2012/10/learning-care-group-makes-nationwide-pledge-to-grow-fit/

The children continue to enjoy championing fitness and nutrition through daily lessons and through fun special events. Today, Learning Care Group schools are rolling out a rainbow of healthy colors in honor of National Nutrition Month.  Children are coming to school dressed in the color of their favorite or "secret" healthy food item.  Through a variety of fun activities, they'll learn about the different wholesome foods each child represents and why each one is good for us. The MyPlate nutrition guide from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture will help illustrate the lesson.

This is How We Grow Fit  

Grow Fit follows the tenets of the Let's Move! Child Care effort in the fight to prevent childhood obesity:

  • Physical Activity:  1-2 hours of physical activity through the day, including outside play when possible
  • Screen Time:  30 minutes or less weekly at school; 2 hours or less daily at home;  None for children under 2
  • Food:  Serve more fruits and vegetables.  Eat meals family style whenever possible. Limit fried foods.
  • Beverages:  Access to water throughout the day.  No sugar-sweetened drinks.  For children 2 and older, low-fat or non-fat milk.  No more than one 4-6 oz. serving of 100% juice per day.
  • Infant Feeding:  Support all parents' decisions about infant feeding.  Breastfeeding mothers can provide their milk to their infants and are welcome to breastfeed during school time. 

The company is already meeting a majority of the program goals, and also is providing educational support for parents to make healthier choices at home.

Sharing a Recipe for Wellness
In order not to overwhelm the children with too many changes at once, Learning Care Group has been phasing in elements of the Grow Fit program.  Over the past 18 months, the schools have decreased the number of fried foods offered on the menu by 75 percent – with just a couple left to go.  Meanwhile, under the guidance of a registered dietician, the schools are offering more whole grains, lean proteins such as lentils and grilled chicken strips as well as more vegetarian options.  The new, healthier menu items are being introduced gradually, allowing children the time to get accustomed to different flavors and textures.  

"Parents have been very supportive," noted Dr. Canizares. "Some have been surprised by how well their children are adapting to new menu items. It doesn't happen overnight. It's natural for young children to be cautious about trying new foods. Their taste buds are highly sensitive during the early years as they decide what tastes and textures they like.  With a little creativity and a lot of patience, you can make trying new foods a learning adventure, and even help turn around a picky eater." 

Here are some tips on getting your family to accept a wider variety of healthy foods:

  • Set a good example.  If you eat a variety of healthy foods, your child is likely to follow suit.  If your child sees you or another role model making an 'icky' face in connection with Brussels sprouts, they won't accept them.   
  • One new food at a time, please.   Don't overwhelm your child with a variety of new dishes.  Always continue to provide other food at the meal that she likes in addition to the "new" food. 
  • Be patient.  Accepting and eating a wide variety of foods happens over time.  Your child might need repeated exposure to a new food – possibly as many as 10-15 failed attempts – before eating it on his own. 
  • Have your child help prepare the meal.  Children who help out in the kitchen and participate in meal preparation tend to be more enthusiastic about eating healthier foods.
  • Plant a garden with your child and have him help care for it.   Children who are interested in gardening tend to eat more fruits and vegetables.

About Learning Care Group, Inc.
Headquartered in Novi, Mich., Learning Care Group provides early education and child care services to children ages 6 weeks to 13 years under its umbrella of brands: The Children's Courtyard, Childtime Learning Centers, La Petite Academy, Montessori Unlimited and Tutor Time Child Care/Learning Centers.  Learning Care Group operates more than 900 schools (corporate and franchise) across 36 states, the District of Columbia and internationally, and has a system-wide capacity to serve more than 100,000 children. For more information, please visit www.learningcaregroup.com

SOURCE Learning Care Group