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Los Alamos students learn nutrition at NMSU cooperative extension field day

LOS ALAMOS-As Allie Parker boarded the school bus after a morning at the Just Be It! field trip, she said she had learned a lot about being healthy and fit.

't know I like kiwi," said the Los Alamos fifth-grader. "I didn't know meat has no sugar. And now I know how to read the nutrition chart."

Parker was among 270 students from Los Alamos schools participating in the event sponsored by the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service and 4-H. at Fuller Lodge and the Los Alamos Community Center Tuesday, Sept. 26.

"We held three Just Be It! field trips for fifth-graders in the tri-county area of Los Alamos, Rio Arriba and Santa Fe," said program coordinator Desaree Whitfield-Jimenez, home economist with Rio Arriba County Extension Service. "We had approximately 600 students participate this year, thanks to the cooperation of the school districts."

The students participated in four workshops where they learned about the food group pyramid, the nutritional qualities of vegetables and fruits, the three types of exercise and how much activity they should have each day, and how to develop a healthy dietary habit.

Through activities such as My Pyramid Jeopardy, where students from each school demonstrated their nutrition and fitness knowledge during a Jeopardy-format game, the students learned why they should choose healthy food for snacks and meals.

Drinking soda pop is not good for you because it blocks the absorption of calcium by the bones was one fact they learned during the game.

The students also had the opportunity to taste different fruits and vegetables such as kiwi, jicama, sugar snap peas and red bell pepper to see which they liked.

"I've never eaten kiwi before," said Joe Cordell as he took a bite of the fruit. "It's good."

"I discovered red bell pepper is good," said Claire Garnett.

Home economist Paula Roybal-Sanchez of the Los Alamos County Extension Service told the students that each day they need to eat two-and-a-half cups of vegetables, one-and-a-half cups of fruit, three one-cup servings from the milk group, five one-ounce servings from the meat and bean group. And from the grain food group, girls should eat five to six ounces and boys need to eat five to seven ounces each day.

The students also learned they need to have 60 minutes of physical exercise each day. Celina Roybal, physical education teacher at Espanola Middle School, told the student there are three types of exercise - flexibility, aerobic and strength.

After leading the students in stretching exercises, Roybal had the students use jump ropes for a three-minute aerobic activity and elastic stretch ropes for strengthening exercises.

"Aerobics exercise is any activity that works your heart and uses a lot of oxygen, such as running, jumping rope, bicycling or Roller-Blading," she said. "It's anything where you are constantly moving."

The Just Be It! nutrition and fitness program is more than a field trip. When the students returned to school they were given a test to demonstrate what they had learned that day. Also select classes will have follow-up visits by home economist and nutrition educators to reinforce the information taught during the workshops.

Jane Moorman
Sept. 27, 2006