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The after school programs at CPN’s Tribal Youth facility is an opportunity for youth between the ages of 12-17 to receive education focusing on drug and alcohol prevention, healthy life skills, and academic success. All programs are voluntary and are designed to help youth build a better community from an early age. Recently, the after school program participants received a diabetes and obesity prevention education. The class was taught by FireLake Wellness Center Dietitian MS RD/LD, Torie Fuller.

“Childhood diabetes and obesity is on the rise for Native American youth,” said Fuller. “We’re trying to educate them on nutrition so that they can make better lifestyle choices for the rest of their lives. Not only is obesity rising in teens but it’s also rising in children at a very early age. Unfortunately with obesity, it creates the risk of complications such as diabetes.”

According to the American Diabetes Association, there has been a 68 percent increase in diabetes from 1994 to 2004 in American Indians aged 15-19.

The youth learned about various decisions that can lead to obesity and diabetes in teenagers and what they can do prevent it. Part of this instruction involved teaching youth how to read nutrition labels, specifically looking out high sodium and added sugar amounts in products, both of which can lead to unhealthy lifestyles.

Fuller also discussed the need to make smart decisions on what they drink. For instance, a 20 ounce can of soda contains a quarter cup of sugar, meaning children are taking in 256 calories without any nutritional value.

A healthy food initiative that Fuller encourages children to get involved with is the Choose My Plate program, which was put together by the USDA two years ago. The program stresses building healthy habits to insure a healthy lifestyle. The program encourages youth to cut back on sweets, choosing vegetables bright in color and being a healthy role model to peers.

With a growing problem in diabetes and obesity in the Native American culture, the time is now to start educating today’s youth on the importance of living a healthier lifestyle.

For more information on diabetes and obesity prevention, visit the American Diabetes Association website at www.diabetes.org or contact Torie Fuller at the FireLake Wellness Center at 405-395-9304.