February 10, 2011

Good choices and good food equal wellness for all

Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- Just ask the scores of local kids and parents having a ball at Wednesday evening’s Wellness Fair. Being a “couch potato” just isn’t much fun. 
Fortunately, with plenty of activities that aren’t only good, but good for you offered at the event, there was nary a couch potato in sight during Matthew Thornton Elementary School’s annual fair. Kids of all ages had the chance to  eat and prepare healthy snacks, climb an indoor rock-climbing wall, dance, get a chair massage, play Wii games and enjoy various other fun (and free) fitness-oriented activities last night. 
All children attending the Wellness Fair were also presented with “passports,” which, when stamped at the assorted educational booths, offered the chance to earn prizes. 
Among the local businesses and organizations participating in this year’s event were Stonyfield Yogurt, Nutrition In Motion, Healthy Living Library, Arbonne International, Chair Massage Transitions, Elliot Health Systems, For Kids Who Cook, CVS Pharmacy, The Learning Stop, Parkland Hospital, Med Stop Wellness Training, ZumbAtomic Kids and the American Kenpo Academy. 
Principal Carol Mack hosted “Just Dance” in the school lobby, while physical education teacher Mike Corf supervised the rock wall climbing. 
The evening also featured martial arts demonstrations by American Kenpo Academy students, and jump-roping with South Elementary School’s Hip Hoppin’ Hawks. 
Jessica Jacques, an emergency room nurse at Elliot Medical Center, joined colleague Nicole Allard in teaching local children the importance of wearing helmets, especially during active wintersportssuchassnowboarding, skiing and snowboarding. 
Using a laptop computer, a life-sized replica of the human skull and plenty of kid-friendly language, the message was an important one for youngsters, both nurses agreed. 
“We see a lot of these injuries, every day,” Allard said, noting that head injuries are the cause for around 1.3 million emergency room visits in the United States each year. 
With a table laden with various foods spread out before her, Parkland Medical Center dietician Corinne Charr gave children a chance to get some hands-on experience in building a healthy plate. 
Motioning to the row of common food items, a passer-by might learn that a can of regular cola has a whopping 580 calories and 84 grams of sugar, while an eight-ounce glass of regular milk has 100 calories, and is laden with calcium. 
Nearby, an 80-calorie apple seems a better option than the 240-calorie snack-sized packet of M & M candies. 
Charr recommended that the children fill about half of their dinner plates with veggies, with the remaining two quarters of the plate reserved for protein and starch, respectively. 
“They’re actually pretty knowledgeable,” she said of her “students.” 
Wellness coach Deb Waitt chatted with guests about the Transitions Lifestyle, a dietary and weight-management plan that’s been a big hit with district teachers. 
Angela Fitzgerald, an English teacher at Londonderry Middle School concurred: Fitzgerald said she recently lost 40 pounds on the program. 
She’s hoping a similar program, known as the TLS Shape Up Family Plan, might appeal to families and children. 

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