Saikrishna's family is used to doing things together. That's why when the 12-year-old was diagnosed with high cholesterol, his family took the medical discovery seriously and, most importantly, pulled together as a team.
"We experienced a lot of eye-openers," says Shanthi, Saikrishna's mother. "We thought we knew about good nutrition and assumed many things, but we really didn't understand the consequences of our eating habits."
The family enjoys spending time together, whether they're traveling to visit family across the country or watching a movie at home with a bowl of popcorn. Unfortunately, says Shanthi, creating positive eating habits as a family was not something they focused on.
Saikrishna's pediatrician referred him to the Get Up & Go program, a partnership between Children's Health℠ and the YMCA. The program teaches participants healthy lifestyle habits through improved nutrition and exercise.
Rethinking healthy eating as a family
The need to change eating habits can feel overwhelming. For Saikrishna's family, starting small proved to be a good strategy.
"On a daily basis, we just tried to make small changes, whether that was purchasing a leaner meat or adding more vegetables to our meals. We used to buy boxes of microwavable popcorn at the store," Shanthi says. "We learned through the program about making a much healthier version with popcorn kernels and a bag in the microwave."
Those simple swaps have made trips to the grocery store very different for the family. "I don't buy chips or other salty snacks anymore, and I try to limit the sugar that we bring into the house," Shanthi says. "We buy fruit instead."
Those changes are highly visible to the participants in the program. Part of the Get Up & Go curriculum involves a trip to the grocery store to teach children about what sort of foods to look for and how to pick healthy options.
"The team makes it so simple that everyone is able to participate," Shanthi says. "The program was highly interactive and truly enabled these lessons to be learned and remembered for a lifetime. It taught us life-long good habits and Saikrishna looked forward to attending each week."
Improving habits for the long term
After completing the program, Saikrishna's cholesterol is under control and he is at a healthy weight. More importantly, having just finished the sixth grade, he is now able to head outdoors and take on all that summer has to offer. He enjoys playing basketball at the YMCA every day–thanks to a free three-month membership that was a perk of completing the program.
"We're so appreciative of Saikrishna's doctor and the Get Up & Go team for encouraging him along the way," Shanthi says. "This is truly a lifetime change."
The whole family has worked together to incorporate the changes from the Get Up & Go program into their daily routine – even when it was not easy.
"Every week they give a challenge, whether it's eating fruit three times a week or incorporating greens into your meals," Shanthi says. "It was challenging to adjust our daily habits for the week, but we worked hard to create new routines."
Making healthy eating a natural part of each day is something the family is working toward, and something that Shanthi says takes practice.
"Over time, we continue to build healthy habits," Shanthi says. "It's one step at a time and once we make a change, we keep moving forward with the next change. Together, we build on our successes, hold on to what we've learned and keep going."
Interested in learning more about healthier habits for your family? Read about pediatric weight management programs that include Get Up & Go, COACH, bariatrics and nutrition clinics.
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