COLUMBUS — Megan Owens wants to let kids know that healthy eating habits can be fun and set them on a path to making lifestyle choices that can reap a lifetime of rewards.

The dietetic intern at Columbus Community Hospital will be the facilitator of a new after-school program called “Food, Fitness & Fun,” created by dietitians Susan Olmer and Joan Plummer, that is being launched by the hospital in January.

Owens said the free program, held in Columbus Wellness Center’s multipurpose room, will give kids the opportunity to interact with a nutrition professional with the goal of fostering healthy lifestyle choices.

Choosing more nutritious foods, such as high-fiber cereals, vegetables, fruits and multigrain bread, are eating habits that can be instilled early on instead of letting youths reach for a soda, bowl of sugar-sweetened cereal or bag of chips, Owens said.

Poor eating habits and inactivity can lead to extra pounds and a path toward what were once considered adult problems — diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, according to medical experts.

Every Monday from 4:15 to 5 p.m. beginning Jan. 8, the program geared toward children in grades one through six will focus on topics such as healthy snacks and meals, positive body image, healthy relationships with food, exercise and reducing screen time (video games, smartphones, etc.).

Positive food choices, as well as negative ones, are often instilled early on, especially with the busy, fast-paced lifestyles of work and activities so many people have today, Owens said.

Interactive nutrition and fitness activities, as well as a healthy snack, will be included during each session of the eight-week program.

“We’ll talk about what goes into making healthy choices, appropriate portions and avoiding mindless eating while sitting watching TV,” Owens said. “We also want kids to know that getting their bodies moving can fun.”

Every session will incorporate a 10-minute physical activity the kids will enjoy, said the O’Neill native studying to become a clinical dietitian.

For more information on “Food, Fitness, & Fun” or to sign up, contact Olmer at 402-562-4460 or Plummer at 402-562-4462.

Owens is planning to provide the following afternoon snacks for the children who sign up:

• Rainbow fruit cup: Children will be provided a variety of colorful, fresh fruits and assemble their own rainbow fruit cup for a snack.

• Meat, cheese, apple: Lean, sliced turkey rolled with a cheese slice and fresh apple slice.

• Veggie bins: Children will be provided a variety of fresh vegetables and encouraged to try something new or that they don’t usually eat.

• Whole grain oatmeal banana pancakes: This snack will be used to discuss portion control, preparing smaller 3-inch pancakes instead of plate-sized versions.

• Banana sushi: A banana with a topping, rolled in a whole grain tortilla, incorporating whole grains into snacks or meals.

• Fruit smoothie: Healthy snack/beverage.

• Banana splits with fresh fruit toppings.

• Cereal snack mix: Used for portion control and mindful eating.

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