Children and teens need lots of nutrients, protein and hydration to nourish their growing bodies and brains. Soda too often has replaced milk or water in the typical child’s diet. Fast food is supersized and the cost of many items incents customers to buy the largest size. In many low-income communities, access to healthy food options is limited and the availability of junk food or fast food is everywhere. A misperception about the costs of healthy foods means that many Americans purchase more expensive, pre-made food products that are nutrient poor and high in calories, sodium and fat. This type of food feeds their family for the day, but does not provide the vital nutrients needed for a growing and thriving family.

Changes within the American family have decreased the number of meals prepared at home. Eighty percent of households headed by individuals between the ages of 25 and 44 are likely to have two incomes. The percentage of married women in the workforce has risen from 43 percent in 1970 to an estimated 67 percent in 2005 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Working mothers and fathers have less time at home to dedicate to food preparation. This increase in income and decrease in time for food preparation make eating out an appealing option. Eating at restaurants means there is less control over the amount of calories, fat, sugar and salt consumed.

Other considerations:

  • Soda has replaced milk and water in the American diet.
  • School lunch programs often offer unhealthy choices.
  • In many low-income communities, access to healthy food options is unavailable due to lack of commodity, grocery stores and/or affordability.

Live Well Omaha Kids aims to reach families and communities where they are to educate them that you can eat healthy, and on a budget. Meal planning and small changes to nutrient-rich food can save money and prevent families from being overweight and obese in the future.

What's in our food?

Today, the foods most frequently eaten are processed foods. Processed foods have an increased energy density, a high fat content, a high glycemic index, increased fructose composition, decreased fiber, and decreased dairy content. Increased levels of fructose and decreased levels of fiber in processed foods perpetuate and increase the effects of insulin. Insulin acts on the brain by blocking leptin, resulting in signals to increase food intake and decrease activity. Insulin also promotes the release of dopamine which conveys the sensation of pleasure. This sensation of pleasure may result in the perception of food as a reward and can lead to addictive overeating.

Best Practices

The best guide for healthy eating is through MyPlate – a meal-by-meal snapshot of what our plates should look like for our health today and tomorrow.

Local Response: Green is Go!

Green is Go is a promotional program adapted from the Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) to identify foods as “GO!,” “Slow” and “Whoa!” foods according to their nutritional value.

  • Green (GO!) items include lean meats, fruits, vegetables, whole grain and low-fat dairy. These items should be eaten more often at each meal.
  • Yellow (Slow) items include fruit in syrup, vegetables in cheese sauce or other food items with higher fat, sodium or calories. These items should be eaten less often.
  • Orange (Whoa!) items are the highest in fat, sodium or calories and provide little nutrition for the body. These items should be eaten least often.

This evidence-based program was applied to a student-led promotion at Omaha South Magnet High School, with SaludableOmaha and the Youth Advisory Council, to educate their high school peers to choose a healthier lunch in context of the food eaten by students throughout the day. “Green is Go” allowed many students to become confident in identifying the healthiest items. Also, an overall positive trend was observed in fruit and vegetable servings given to each student during the project.

Other Resources

How to get involved: