Kids Heart Felt Health Launches In Charlotte To Teach Kids Healthy Eating Habits

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Kids Heart Felt Health is a new non-profit organization being launched in Charlotte to teach children how to prepare their own favorite meals and snacks in a healthy manner. Organizers have already attracted interest from other cities.

“Our program is called HEART Felt Health because we not only give kids hands-on activities to help protect their physical hearts – curbing obesity and malnutrition – but also the word ‘HEART’ stands for character traits we intend to instill through our program,” said founding president Claudine Lovitt. “Those character traits are Humility, Empathy, Appreciation, Respect and Tenacity. We share inspirational stories of people who represent these character traits and who overcame personal struggles to better themselves and society in the process.”

Another unique aspect of the program is that it is taught by trained high school Honor Society students, with adult supervision. “These students also serve as role models, learn about healthy nutrition themselves, and are really able to connect well with the younger kids,” Lovitt said. Currently the program involves Honor Society students from Charlotte Latin, Providence Day, Country Day, Myers Park, Providence High, South Mecklenburg, Grace Academy, Ardrey Kell and Marvin.

The first set of weekly classes begins Sunday, Jan. 9, in a meeting room at Earth Fare in Ballantyne and continues through Feb. 13. Enrollment is now open via the website www.kidshearthfelthealth.com for a second series of classes beginning in February.

“I conceived of Kids Heart Felt Health after my daughter was diagnosed a year ago at age 7 with Type 1 diabetes,” Lovitt said. “While living with diabetes is difficult, my daughter has taught me that it is possible for a child to make healthy food substitutions and to take control of their own health at an early age. It’s very important for kids to understand how to manage the food they eat and prepare healthy versions of it when possible.”

Lovitt said she “linked up with some nutritionists and sought advice from chefs to help me address obesity and make learning about nutrition fun for kids. I’ve also learned some things about teaching kids as a volunteer with the Greater Enrichment Program, which provides extra-curricular activities for underprivileged children in the area. I teach them tennis using high school volunteers, as we will do in Kids Heart Felt Health.”

Currently the program focuses on children in two age groups – second through fifth grades and sixth through eighth. “Importantly this is not a ‘dieters’ program – rather it is designed to help all parents interested in instilling healthy lifestyle habits in their children. The program would never exclude a child with dietary restrictions, but is flexible to accommodate all children, including those with diabetes, celiac disease and food allergies. By age 7 most can understand counting carbs,” Lovitt said. “We’ve already gotten inquiries from other cities like Asheville, so we expect this to spread – perhaps nationally.

“Michelle Obama, the American Heart Association, and the Center for Disease Control have all issued warnings that unless the current trends in childhood obesity and poor nutrition are reversed, the country will be faced with a health and economic crisis within the next 25 years. The American Heart Association warns that if current trends continue, for the first time in history this generation of children will have shorter life expectancies than their parents. This is the bad news. But as we have told our high-school volunteers – the generation who will inherit this crisis – the good news is that positive change is possible and our program gives children the tools and positive reinforcement they need to begin to reverse these trends.”

The current program is offered in six-week segments that cover breakfast, lunch, and dinner foods, as well as specified nutrients. Each week, the children are taught a nutrition lesson through a food demonstration. After the nutrition lesson is given, the children are divided into “teams” so that they may make that week’s food in a creative, nutritious way, Lovitt explained. The children then compete in a food contest in which their food creations are judged for taste, presentation, and nutritional value.

“The children are taught how to determine a food’s nutritional value based on a specific formula provided to them,” she said. “The goal is for the children to create foods using this specific nutritional formula. The challenge is to create foods that are both nutritious and that taste good, so that the children will want to eat these foods once they complete the program.”

Incentives are built into the program. The children are not only awarded for winning the food contests each week, but are also given awards if specific weekly goals (small dietary changes) are met. In addition, at the beginning of each six-week session, the children are introduced to the “Food Rainbow”, which represents the various colors of fruits and vegetables. Children who complete their “Food Rainbow” by the end of the six-week session (i.e., eat all of the colors of the rainbow) are given an award at the conclusion of the session.

Nutritional goals will also be met through a kids-helping-kids mentoring process. As high school volunteers run the program each week, a “Nutrition Buddy System” will be set up so that the children remain motivated to make heart healthy lifestyle changes.

At each weekly session, the children will learn something from the healthy eating habits of other countries. For example, during a session called “Calcium Can Be Cool,” the children will learn about the difference between Greek yogurt and American yogurt. “Greece is one of the healthiest countries in the world and Greeks typically eat yogurt for breakfast,” Lovitt said. “Greek yogurt is healthier than American yogurt because it contains fewer carbohydrates and more protein. It also has a thicker consistency and can be used as a healthy substitute in frosting on baked goods, such as cupcakes. As many of the program’s volunteers are International Baccalaureate or Global Studies students, these lessons allow the volunteers to apply what they are learning in the classroom to real life.”

Kids Heart Felt Health Inc. has filed its application for 501(c)3 status, which means donations to it would be tax deductible. A portion of the proceeds of the program will be donated to fund research for the cure for Type 1 diabetes, Lovitt said.

Claudine Lovitt is an attorney who is admitted to practice law in the states of New York, Connecticut, and Ohio. She last practiced corporate and securities law with Baker Hostetler, a leading multi-practice law firm headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. After moving to Charlotte in 2001, she suspended her practice of law in order to devote all of her time to raising her three children.

She is also the founder of Charlotte Junior Tennis Inc., which has been running innovative junior tennis programs, including community outreach tennis camps and clinics, since 2008.

Other leaders of the program include:

· Angela Gallo, president and founder of Total Nutrition Technology, Inc. (TNT), which owns and operates 10 wellness centers throughout the Charlotte area, as well as one in Asheville. She also licenses her proprietary program to health professionals throughout the country. Her company was selected to participate in CNN’s health makeover program called “Mission Motivate.” She is also a spokesperson for the “Got Milk?” campaign. Since she founded her company, Angela has helped thousands of people achieve their personal goals, from professional athletes wanting to improve their sports performance, to individuals desiring to manage their weight.

· Pam Moody, a nutritional and wellness coach who owns and operates ProActive Wellness. She is also a Director and Independent Affiliate Member of Trivita Inc. She has been studying nutrition, including the impact of nutrition on controlling and preventing medical conditions, for over 25 years. Moody first became interested in nutrition when her husband was unexpectedly diagnosed with adult-onset Type 1 diabetes over two decades ago, in her personal quest to try to “cure” him through exploring the effects of nutrients on human health. Moody advocates that “Optimum nutrition is the revolutionary approach to your health.”

For more information or to register for future programs, visit the organization’s website at www.kidsheartfelthealth.com.

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