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Thousands of North Dakota Kids to Get Healthier Lunches

As North Dakota struggles with obesity problems, thousands of kids could soon be getting healthier lunches. (iStockphoto)
As North Dakota struggles with obesity problems, thousands of kids could soon be getting healthier lunches. (iStockphoto)
December 8, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. - Thousands of kids in North Dakota soon could be getting healthier lunches as the state continues to struggle with higher rates of obesity than much of the nation. About 500 home-based child-care providers will be getting new tools and educational materials to help them prepare healthier meals.

Karalee Harper, executive director of Heartland Child Nutrition, said research from the American Heart Association shows many children eat almost double the recommended amount of sodium every day - which is only one health concern.

"What the program really is doing is, it's focusing in on fruits and vegetables, which are low in sodium, as well as how the day-care providers are buying their foods," she said. "Once they get it home, what can they do to decrease the sodium?"

The new food-education plan is expected to help more than 3,000 children who are enrolled in home-based child-care programs in North Dakota.

Eating more than the recommended 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day is associated with serious health concerns, especially for children who already are overweight. These problems include high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. Harper said the idea behind the healthy food program is to help parents and child-care providers curb these problems before they start.

"If we can get the children to develop healthy eating habits early in life, then it can bring lifelong benefits," she said. "If we can get that going early on in life, later on they may not want or like the taste of salt."

The new home child-care food program was put together through a partnership between Heartland Nutrition and the American Heart Association.

AMA information on kids and sodium is online at sodiumbreakup.heart.org. Heartland Nutrition is at heartlandnutrition.org.

Brandon Campbell/Dallas Heltzell, Public News Service - ND