Statewide Results from NutriGram® Confirm Need for Healthy Eating Education

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Texas Department of Agriculture and The Cooper Institute® Offer NutriGram at No Cost to All Texas Public Schools

When a group of about 1,800 third through fifth grade Texas children were asked how many times they ate fast food, 46 percent of them said two or more times per week. These same children also did not understand that low-fat milk is a healthier choice than whole milk.

These are just a few of the results the Texas Department of Agriculture and The Cooper Institute® released today from a statewide pilot program called NutriGram®, a fun and interactive nutrition education program for elementary students. The valuable information collected from NutriGram reaffirmed the importance of healthy eating education among Texas children.

“Poor nutrition impacts a student’s performance, and with one in five Texas children considered obese, Texas must do what it can to educate students about proper nutrition,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said. “NutriGram has the opportunity to be a breakthrough that can improve children's lives and save taxpayers unnecessary healthcare costs. This program is a critical initiative for Texans and serves as the education component for the Texas Department of Agriculture’s 3E’s of Healthy Living – Education, Exercise and Eating Right.”

The students from 14 elementary schools across Texas participated in a NutriGram pilot program earlier this year. The results released today provide schools, parents and the general public valuable information about the need for nutrition intervention for young students.

Following are a sample of the results:

School Meals

  •     The majority of children liked the school cafeteria food “some” or “most” of the time.
  •     87% of children expressed interest in helping choose healthy foods for their school cafeteria.
  •     88% reported that they would eat healthy breakfast items such as yogurt, oatmeal, fruit, granola and whole wheat toast if presented.

Food and Beverage Choices

  •     46% of children ate fast food two or more times per week.
  •     When presented with a sample menu, children were equally likely to choose healthier options in place of less healthier options. For example:

o    Children were equally likely to choose healthy options such as a turkey sandwich in place of less healthier options such as chicken nuggets.
o    Children reported consistently choosing healthier choices for a side dish, such as a fruit cup or steamed vegetables, over French fries and tator tots.

  •     Increasing variety is one way to get children interested in eating more fruits and vegetables.

Food Knowledge

  •     Children did not understand that low-fat milk is a healthier choice than whole milk.
  •     Children did not understand that baked potato chips were a healthier choice than French fries.
  •     The majority of children incorrectly thought diet soda contained sugar and sports drinks did not contain sugar.
  •     The majority of children knew that consuming excess calories can lead to weight gain, but fewer knew that excess calories can also lead to heart disease.

“It’s a frightening reality that 17 percent of today’s children are obese,” said Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, Founder and Chairman at Cooper Aerobics in Dallas. “Through NutriGram we can learn what students know about nutrition and what food choices they are likely to make. This program acts as a catalyst for positive eating changes, empowering adults to better teach and implement proper nutrition, ultimately improving the health and lifestyle of our children.”

The University of Texas School of Public Health, Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living analyzed the pilot data. The student demographics from the study include, Gender: about 53 percent female and about 46 percent male; Ethnicity: about 48 percent Hispanic, 28 percent White and 13 percent African American, plus other ethnicities; and Body Mass Index (BMI): about 54 percent are normal weight, 17 percent are overweight and 26 percent are obese.

See How NutriGram Works
NutriGram is designed to encourage healthy lifestyles through an online question-and-answer format featuring a 3-D nutrition education video game. Media are encouraged to download video and sound bites of children using NutriGram, click here.

NutriGram is available to all Texas public schools at no cost through May 2012, and the program is currently being used at more than 70 elementary schools across Texas to assess third- through fifth-grade students’ knowledge, behaviors and attitudes toward healthy eating. The information gained as a result of NutriGram will help empower adults to better teach and implement proper nutrition at earlier ages in an effort to curb the alarming rise in childhood obesity. Public, private and charter schools interested in implementing NutriGram can contact The Cooper Institute at 972.341.3200 or visit NutriGram.org.

About The Texas Department of Agriculture
The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) provides numerous services to Texans through four key areas: growing the agriculture industry; protecting consumers; enabling healthy lifestyles; and developing our economy. Through domestic and international marketing initiatives and various biosecurity measures, TDA promotes and protects the Lone Star State's $100 billion agriculture industry. The agency also protects Texans through programs to maintain the integrity of the state's natural resources and by ensuring consumers get what they pay for at the fuel pump and the grocery store. Additionally, as the administrator of federal nutrition programs and economic development grants, TDA also advocates healthy lifestyles among all Texans and fosters the advancement of communities across the Lone Star State. Through research, regulation, funding and marketing, TDA is committed to growing Texas' worldwide standing as a powerhouse of productivity. For more information, visit http://www.TexasAgriculture.gov.

About The Cooper Institute
Established in 1970 by Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, The Cooper Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated worldwide to preventive medicine research and education, housing one of the world’s largest databases on exercise and health. Each year The Cooper Institute develops engaged learners in fitness and health with its courses and nationally accredited Personal Trainer Certification exam. The Cooper Institute offers web-based tools for schools to track and report on youth fitness and nutrition: FITNESSGRAM® and NutriGram®. For more information, visit cooperinstitute.org.

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Bryan Black
Texas Department of Agriculture
(512) 463-7664
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Alyssa Kitten
Cooper Aerobics
(972) 560-3221
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