The official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website says that childhood obesity has more than doubled in children over the last 30 years. In adolescents aged 12-19, those numbers have more than quadrupled.
As “The UNI Project” documentary points out, education could be the key to changing that trend. A collaborative effort between NutriBullet and University High School (UNI) in Los Angeles, the initiative focuses on teaching healthy eating habits to students.
Registered dietitian Sarah Lefkowitz was brought in to work with Kerri Eich, the director of Health at the school.
“We had a couple of students and their parents come in, and [their] lives transformed as well,” Lefkowitz said when reached by phone for a one-on-one interview. “One of our kids that’s featured in the documentary, his mom ran her first 5K marathon. She has been pretty inspired by the whole experience, as has her son. To see them do this together, and go through the transformation together, was just amazing.”
Lefkowitz pointed out that the students who were the most successful were able to get their parents on board with the program. The adults were able to learn from their children ,and they were able to do everything at the house and incorporate it into their lifestyle.
“It was really interesting because what we’re seeing is that the kids we are working with, their eating habits and nutrition information is obviously coming from their parents,” she explained. “And their peers, but mostly from their homes. So they are learning these detrimental eating habits from home because their parents don’t know any better. And they were coming to school and we had to break these habits.”
Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs says that the entrepreneur called himself a “fruitarian” at times and maintained what some call a “near vegan” diet. Eating healthy as Jobs did can sometimes become a logistical nightmare, especially with calorie counting and label reading.
The UNI Project strips away the stat and simplifies nutrition and doesn't require a MacBook. The trailer for the documentary shows students selecting produce for their own custom made blasts. One young man even attempts to lower the kale level in his drink.
“It’s like that Michael Pollan quote:‘Eat clean,’ Lefkowitz offered. “Eat veggies. Eat things that are simple and found in nature. Don’t worry about all the technicalities and the science behind it. We’ll point you in the right direction, but just have faith that these are the things you are supposed to be eating.”
The dietitian wants to point out, though, that the project wasn’t just aimed at children who were considered to be overweight.
“We were finding--and the research was showing--that the majority of kids and adolescent children are overweight. I think it’s about 60 percent, especially in the population we were working with,” she said. “We weren’t just necessarily going after overweight kids. It was the idea that we wanted to target all of them. You have the 60 percent who are overweight, and you have the kids who are getting the majority of their calories from processed foods.”
Learn how you and your family can benefit from eating clean at the BeTheNextUNI project site. Schools can win $10,000 to start their own Blast Bar by going to the project site.