Program helps child care centers make healthy changes

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- The blender is stirring excitement at the child care center of Kansas City Kansas Community College.

"That was loud, and make it smooth," said Sophia Bigler, a pre-K student.

Make that a smoothie. These kids know what's in it.

"Then the banana, then the blueberries," said Sophia.

Mia Sokhanvar added, "It was yummy."

Just what the director of the child care center wanted to hear.

"We know the children can lead the way. The children are gonna go home with all that enthusiasm and excitement you saw in the classroom. They're gonna share that with parents," said Doris Holleman.

This is the "Healthy Way to Grow." The American Heart Association is launching the program at child care centers in Kansas City, Kansas, and five other U.S. cities. It's aimed at growing healthy habits early since one in four pre-schoolers is overweight or obese.

A child care specialist visits the centers regularly and offers suggestions.

"Look at their menus. Are we doing pre-fried foods for children? Are we doing processed, sugary sweetened beverages? Then we need to look at how we can eliminate those," said Rhonda Erpelding of the American Heart Association.

At this center, they've switched from juice to water and fruit. They offer some food family style, so little ones will learn to take only what they'll eat.

They're bringing more physical activity into the classroom, knowing you have to counter the digital age even at this age.

"They're relying heavily on media devices and we really have to make changes," said Erpelding.

So the kids are moving more. The hope is to move Wyandotte County out of last place for health in the state. The county has consistently been at the bottom in Robert Wood Johnson Foundation rankings.

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