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NEWS Improving and Protecting the Health, Well-Being
and Self-Reliance of All Montanans.

January 7, 2011

Fit Kids = Happy Kids: We are all role models for children

Eat Right Montana logoBy Eat Right Montana

For the past 12 years, Eat Right Montana (ERM) - a coalition promoting healthy eating and active lifestyles - has published Healthy Families (www.eatrightmontana.org/eatrighthealthyfamilies.htm). During 2011, ERM will continue this tradition of practical tips and positive health information for Montana families.

"This year Healthy Families will focus on the very timely and important topics of childhood nutrition and physical activity," says Kim Pullman, RD (registered dietitian), of Helena and Chairperson of the Eat Right Montana Coalition. "While childhood obesity has been in the headlines, there are more pervasive problems that affect almost all Montana children, regardless of their BMI (body mass index). In our fast food, couch potato culture, very few young Americans get the nutrients or the physical activity they need to grow strong bodies and smart brains for happy, successful, and healthy futures."

The 2011 Healthy Families theme, FIT KIDS=HAPPY KIDS, will address the current epidemics of poor nutrition (too many calories, not enough nutrients) and inactivity in children. According to Pullman, the solutions are actually simple, inexpensive, and involve every adult in the Treasure State. "We are all role models for kids," she says. "While parents are children’s first and most powerful role models, young people often copy the behaviors of other important adults, like grandparents, teachers, and coaches." 

The FIT KIDS=HAPPY KIDS campaign will offer parents and other adults practical, easy-to-use tips on tasty nutrition and fun physical activity that fit our Montana lifestyles. This information can help anyone:

1)  PLAN MORE EFFECTIVELY: Healthy, active lifestyles often just need a little bit of advance planning. Eating smart and being active aren’t complicated and they can easily fit into the most hectic of schedules. For example, planning a power breakfast at home can be as simple as setting the table the night before.

2)  EAT TOGETHER OFTEN: For kids, family meals mean nutrition, security, and success all rolled into a simple event. Family-style meals (at home, childcare, or church) are about more than the food on the table. They are about talking together, laughing together, and adults being positive roles models for children. 

3)  PLAY TOGETHER OFTEN: Like family-style meals, fun family activities are a time for children to copy adults doing things that are good for their bodies (and their brains). Having active fun together can be as simple as getting outside to build a snow fort or a family of snow people in the winter.

4)  ENJOY THE BENEFITS OF GOOD HEALTH: Healthy eating and active lifestyles for children are not about restrictive diets and grueling exercise routines. In order to be fit and happy, kids need plenty of delicious nutrition and fun activities with their parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, teachers, and coaches.
"As a mother, I always look for tips to make my life easier and my family happy," says Pullman. "As chair of Eat Right Montana, I know that this year’s campaign will give all Montana families the everyday advice they need to enjoy the benefits of being fit, well-nourished, and ready to succeed."


We’ve all heard that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day," often from our moms and grandmothers. After years of scientific research, it turns out that they were actually on to something important.

For kids, eating in the morning is essential for optimal school performance and overall health. Kids (and adults) who eat breakfast tend to do better at school (and work) - and to have healthier weights and cholesterol levels as well.


To refuel and rev-up your family for an energetic day, plan a power breakfast. For most people, time is the biggest obstacle to eating in the morning. Here are three tried-and-true tips for beating the breakfast rush hour:

1)  Get ready the night before: Set the table with bowls and spoons for cereal. Get out a pan for pancakes or a blender for smoothies. Slice up some fruit and cheese.

2)  Keep it real simple: Fancy breakfasts are wonderful when you have the time. On busy days, a sandwich, a slice of leftover pizza, or a yogurt with fruit work just fine.  

3)  Pack it to-go: If there’s no time to eat at home, take your nutrition to-go. Pack a brown bag breakfast for the road -- or see if your school offers a breakfast program.


1) CARBOHYDRATE: A high-octane carbohydrate energizes your body and brain for a busy day. Think cereal (hot or cold), bread, muffins, rolls, tortillas, or even leftover pasta. Choose whole grains for an extra nutrition punch (more fiber and nutrients). 

2) PROTEIN: This is the missing link in most morning meals. Protein is what we need to go strong until lunch. Think lean: a slice of Canadian bacon, an egg, a slice of deli meat or cheese, a container of yogurt, a scoop of cottage cheese, or a handful of nuts.

3) FRUIT: Breakfast is a great way to start on the 5 to 9 daily servings of produce your body needs for optimal health. Think fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruit – like apples, avocadoes, bananas, berries, grapefruit, kiwi, mangoes, oranges, pears, or pineapple.      


Skipping breakfast is a no-brainer – literally. Skip breakfast – and your brain and body suffer all day. Eat well in the AM and you’re on the nutrition fast track for a high-energy day. Give kids what they crave – a power breakfast every day.


For nearly a decade, the folks at Big Sky State Games have been helping families have fun and get fit through Shape Up Montana (www.shapeupmontana.org) and Big Sky Fit Kids (www.bigskyfitkids.org/). These online programs are easy to use and tailored to fit your busy lifestyle. Join the thousands of Montanans who have discovered how easy it is to get moving, get stronger, and feel better!


1) Put together a family team: Challenge your extended family to join Shape Up Montana team (4-10 people, $15/person incl. T-shirt). Have fun being active together!

2) Enroll a school team: Big Sky Fit Kids is FREE for groups of 10-30 kids under 18 from school/after-school programs, 4-H clubs, scout troops, or any youth organization.  

3) Be a real role model: Want to really make a difference in the life of young people? Offer to be a mentor for a group of kids. Enroll the team - and be active WITH them!!


Whether you’re participating in Shape Up Montana, Big Sky Fit Kids, or playing with your family, there are dozens of ways to have outdoor fun during Montana’s winter.

1. Toss a snowball: Gentle tosses and hard throws can help build arm strength.

2. Build a snow family: Build one for each member of your family -- to size. 

3. Build a snow fort: When the snow is solid, cut blocks for forts or igloos.

4. Shovel some snow: Make it a family activity or help a next-door neighbor.

5. Sled down a hill: Big or small hill, get warm going back up for another run. 

6. Tube down a hill: No sled, no problem. Take a wild ride on an inner tube
7. Ski across country: XC-skiing is free (once you have equipment) and fun.

8. Skate across the ice: Grab some skates and check out the local outdoor rinks.

9. Snowshoe on a trail: Got small kids? Put them in a sled to pull behind you.
10. Make a snow angel: Any fresh snowfall is just right for snow angels.  

However you like to move, just do it! Choose something that you and the kids enjoy. Research shows that people stick with the activities that they like to do.


Getting enough sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle - equal to eating well and being active. For overall health and well-being, as well as for success at work and school, a good night’s sleep (7 to 8 hours for adults, 9 to 12 hours for children) is the amount recommended by medical experts.

What the research says
Too little sleep has been linked to overeating and overweight, increased risk of diabetes and heart problems, and more depression in adults. For children, recent research suggests:

1) In a study of 8,000 preschoolers, less than 11 hours sleep was linked to lower literacy and early math skills. Bedtime routines can be an important way to make a significant impact on children’s preparation for school success.

2) Getting less sleep at night seems to make a healthy growth pattern more difficult. In several studies of hundreds children, fewer hours of nighttime sleep was associated with a greater chance of being overweight. Daytime napping had no effect on weight.

3) Children who do not get the age-appropriate amount of sleep can behave somewhat like hyperactive children. For youth diagnosed with ADA or ADHD, improvements in sleep routines can dramatically improved peer relations and classroom performance. 

What your family can do

Create a sleep-friendly space.
1) For smart sleeping habits, the most important issue is to keep screen entertainment (TV, DVD, video games, etc.) out of children’s bedrooms.

2) Make the room as conducive to quiet sleep as possible. Dark and comfortable are the keys, without too much clutter on the bed (a few stuffed animals, not an entire zoo).

Get into a relaxing, regular bedtime routine.

1) Smart parents know that a bedtime routine - at the about the same time each night - is the best way to get children settled down and ready to sleep through the night.

2) A warm bath, reading a story, and cuddling with a favorite toy are soothing ways to let children know that it is time for sleep. Keep lights low and music gentle before bed.    

Avoid all caffeine for children.

1) Caffeine is a strong stimulant - increasing alertness and disrupting deep sleep. A recent study confirmed that the more caffeine children consumed, the less they slept.

2) Soft drinks and bottled teas that contain caffeine are not appropriate for children. To see the caffeine content of beverages, go to www.mayoclinic.com/health/caffeine/AN01211.

Apple Cinnamon French Toast

All 2011 recipes will meet the following criteria:

  • Require minimal ingredients that are easy to find and affordable
  • Involve minimal preparation time and use common kitchen equipment
  • Include a complete nutritional analysis and lots of delicious flavors


  • 5 cups peeled, cored apples         
  • ½ cup sugar, granulated               
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon, ground              
  • ½ tsp. allspice, ground
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 12 slices whole wheat bread
  • 5 large eggs
  • ¾ cup low-fat/fat-free milk
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon, ground


  • Combine first 4 ingredients in a large pot. Cook apples, sugar, cinnamon, and allspice until apples are tender. Mix cornstarch with about 2-3 tsp. cold water to make a paste and stir slowly into hot apple mixture. Place thickened apples into a 9 X 13 pan that has been lightly coated with cooking spray.
  • Mix eggs, milk, and cinnamon in a bowl. Dip bread into this mixture and lay it on top of the thickened apples.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic wrap from bread and apple mixture. Cook in heated oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Remove from oven, dust with powdered sugar and serve warm.

Yield: 12 servings (1 slice with topping)

Getting kids cooking:

  • Invite children to help make breakfast the night before.
  • Kids can help mix the apples, dip the bread, and sprinkle the powdered sugar before serving.


  • Dish can be baked the night before and microwaved in individual portions.
  • Other fresh or canned fruits can be substituted for apples, including pears and peaches.
  • Egg substitutes may be used instead of whole eggs. Three whole eggs and 4 egg whites can be used instead of the whole 5 eggs.

Nutrition Analysis: 1 slice with fruit topping

  • Calories: 207      
  • Total Carb: 39.3 g
  • Protein: 7.1 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 2.7 g
  • Total Fat: 2.9 g  
  • Calories from Fat: 12.9%        
  • Saturated Fat: 0.8 g                  
  • Trans Fat: 0.0 g 
  • Sodium: 245 mg
  • Calcium: 52.3 mg
  • Iron: 1.7 mg

Source: Hellgate Elementary School Foodservice, Missoula, Montana

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD (EatRightMT2000@gmail.com) developed this information for Eat Right Montana, a coalition promoting healthy eating and active lifestyles. Past and current issues of Eat Right Montana’s monthly nutrition and physical activity tips can be downloaded free at www.eatrightmontana.org/eatrighthealthyfamilies.htm.)

Page last updated: 07/30/2013