Healthy Steps is a nutrition and physical activity program for preschoolers designed to prevent childhood obesity. It is part of Tennessee Shapes Up, a statewide University of Tennessee Extension initiative implemented by the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences in response to the obesity epidemic.
Unhealthy eating habits and lack of physical activity can begin at an early age. National surveys show that about one in four children ages 2 to 5 are overweight. Overweight children suffer from many physical and psychological problems. Overweight increases the risk of developing high cholesterol, hypertension, respiratory ailments, orthopedic problems, depression and type 2 diabetes as a youth. And, overweight children are more likely to be overweight adults than children of normal weight.
Home is where many behaviors are formed. However, with so many children in some form of out-of-home child care, preschool classrooms and child-care centers are an opportunity to help young children develop healthy habits. Healthy Steps is designed to provide young children with the knowledge and skills they need to make healthy food choices and be physically active. There are two parts to Healthy Steps, healthy eating (Healthy Bites) and physical activity (Healthy Strides).
Healthy Eating (Healthy Bites)
Nutrition education is provided in the following popular thematic units:
- How I grow
- Home and Family
Each thematic unit has 2 to 3 lesson plans with objectives, props and instructions for delivering the lesson. Healthy Bites incorporates lessons from Color Me Healthy, a preschool program developed by North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension, into the themes. In addition, children participate in food preparation activities. Recipe cards with step-by-step directions are provided for How I Grow, Counting, Fall, Shapes and Summer. Student worksheets are provided for lessons in Counting and Shapes.