MLA Dan Ashton chats with Anita Bains, theory leader for the MEND (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, DO It!) program, teaching children and family healthy lifestyle tools. Steve Kidd/Western News

Family approach to a healthy lifestyle

Developing healthy lifestyles for children with the whole family

A new program takes a whole family approach to teaching kids about healthy lifestyles.

MEND (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do it!) is geared to children of unhealthy weight, but nutritionist Anita Bains explains that a parent or guardian attends each session with their child. Sometimes, she said, it’s both parents or even siblings that come along to support.

“It is really nice to have the whole family involved,” said Bains, explaining that the goal is to get parents and children on the same page when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. “It gives the parents and the kids a common language to talk about food.”

That’s done over the course of 10 weeks, with two two-hour afterschool sessions a week. The sessions are interactive and fun.

“We have games where they learn about their bodies and stretching,” said Bains. The environment is geared to help kids who might have had bad experiences in exercise or gym class.

“It’s a nice supportive environment where they can learn to use their bodies and feel good about themselves.”

The fun goes beyond just the sessions. Bains said part of the program is a detective game, where kids can track down how much fat and sugar is in different products.

“They go around the store and they check the labels. They use that card to find products that are healthy for them. They get to be detectives for the day and also to be healthier,” said Bains. One child even emptied the cupboards at home and categorized all the food depending on whether it was MEND-Friendly or Mend-Unfriendly.

“She had taken the information and she was applying it at home, which is what we want to see,” said Bains. “I have worked at a lot of afterschool programs and I’ve also worked with adults and to have them come together, it’s really a nice way to help people understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

“It’s a fun, friendly way to talk about changes in diet.”

MEND takes place at Parkway Elementary School, with the next session starting April 18. For information and registration, contact the Penticton Community Centre at 250-490-2426 or email mend@penticton.ca.

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