Eat right, get active — and do it as a family with Coquitlam program

New program gets families to eat, play and learn about healthy lifestyles

Like many working moms, Silvia Santos is exhausted at the end of the working day, frantic to get a healthy meal on the table and worried about the amount of exercise she and her family is getting.

But now, after finishing a free 10-week program called Generation Health, Santos she she has more knowledge about what to eat and her kids are helping the family find things to do to get and stay fit. 

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“It’s great just being out with the family because you can’t just stay home all the time and walking around the mall is not doing exercise,” Santos told The Tri-City News.

She admitted it was a bit of a challenge at first to carve out the time to attend Generation Health on weeknights with her husband and two children, aged nine and 11, but it was so fun playing games, meeting other families and talking about health, she’s sad it’s over.

But the benefits are lasting, Santos says, because she now shops for healthier food options and her kids are researching new physical activities they can do.

“At the end of the session, we would all say we loved it and felt like it was so great,” said Santos, who said her family members have weight issues, although losing weight wasn’t the goal of the program.

In fact, the free program developed by the Childhood Obesity Foundation, focuses on healthy lifestyles and how to make smart choices that lead to greater well-being.

Coming to Coquitlam in March, Generation Health offers 10 weekly in-class sessions, which are two hours long, and discusses healthy eating and active living, goal setting, family mealtime and family physical activity, sleep hygiene, healthy body image and self-compassion, and positive parenting.

As well, there are 10 weekly online sessions that provide additional content, including activities and recipes. There are also four group activities scheduled outside of the regular class for participants to try new activities.

In Santos’ case, the group visited a local grocery store and a nutritionist walked around with participants, talking about healthy food options. 

“I learned a lot,” said Santos, who said she had already been purchasing organic food, noting the nutritionist busted a lot of food myths for her and gave her a new way of looking at healthy eating and shopping.

As well, her children learned some health tips, such as the importance of sleep and reducing screen time, from people other than herself and in a group where they shared common issues with other kids.

Generation Health was designed for families with children aged eight to 12 years old who are off the healthy weight trajectory, meaning their body mass index (BMI) for their age is above the 85th percentile.

But weight is not a focus of the program, said Dr. Tom Warshawski, pediatrician and chair of the Childhood Obesity Foundation, although growing concerns about overweight children was the impetus for the program because extra pounds can lead to poor health outcomes as people age.

“This program is not about weight," he said. "What we’re stressing is, if you get the lifestyle right, you are going to get healthy and 80% of it is eating right and being physically active.

"If you’re eating right and are physically active, we’re pretty darn sure your health is going to be OK”

• Generation Health will run Mondays, 5:45 to 7:45 p.m. at Pinetree community centre beginning March 2. To register, visit: https://generationhealth.ca/registration-contact/ For more information, visit: https://generationhealth.ca.

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