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Camp Scores with Healthy Lunches Thanks to Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU

July 19, 2012

Healthy Snack

By Otesa Miles

Something’s different about the lunches at Shaka Smart’s sports camp. You guessed it! They’re healthier, yet still tasty. The basketball camp worked with Healthy Lunch sponsor Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to make the midday meal nutrient-rich for campers.

“With obesity being such a hot topic—we want to prevent it in children,” said Shira E. Cantor, the hospital’s public relations coordinator. “We helped them pick out good menus for the kids. The dieticians helped make sure the meals were more balanced.”

“We’re excited to be a partner of the camp and we’re excited to send a couple of our patients to the camp,” Cantor said.

Maya Smart, the camp’s director, said providing a well-balanced lunch for campers is a camp priority. “We support an overall healthy lifestyle at Shaka Smart Basketball Camps. Our coaches ensure that campers get the exercise their bodies crave. With the help of Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, the lunches provide the fuel they need.”

The camp lunches supply campers with protein along with a vegetable or a fruit, but are not high in carbs. The goal is to have meals that are low in sugar, fat and sodium, Cantor said.

One camp lunch featured burritos with beans and/or chicken. Other offerings included barbecue chicken sandwiches on whole grain buns and turkey wraps. ”Lunch was good,” said 9-year-old Brooks Hall, who listed the camp’s food as one of the best parts of his experience. “The burrito was my favorite.”

“We now include a bottle of Virginia Artesian Water with every lunch instead of a high-calorie, sugary drink,” Smart said. “Plus we have vegetables in the wraps and burritos, whole grains instead of white bread, and apples, oranges or carrot sticks with each lunch. We’re trying to lead by example and give our campers an overall positive, healthy, educational experience.”

“A big part of this is teaching kids they can eat the foods they enjoy that are still healthy,” Cantor said. “For example, if they have pizza, they should choose cheese pizza and not pepperoni because cheese pizza is a lot lower in saturated fat.”

The focus on eating well is important because young bodies need the right type of foods to grow, perform well in school, participate in sports and remain in good shape. Showing young people how to make good meal choices early will pay off with better health later in life, Cantor said.

“If children are obese, it can impact their ability to play sports,” Cantor said. It can also increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. Choosing foods that are good for you can be challenging because packaged, prepared foods are quick and readily available, while options that are better for you might require some planning and preparation. “Sometimes we pick the easiest option instead of the healthiest option.”

For tips for building your own healthy lunch choices, check out these issues of the newsletter from the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, which is full of information on reading food labels, cooking with kids and assembling a vitamin-rich school lunch:

http://pediatrics.vcu.edu/pdfs/media/TidBits%202012%20Summer.pdf

http://pediatrics.vcu.edu/pdfs/media/TidBits_Fall2011.pdf

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