Parents at Alice Carlson Applied Learning Center learned the steps to a healthy lifestyle through the program, “Healthy Food, Healthy Families,” a seven-week program centered on nutrition education with particular emphasis on making healthier food choices in family life.

"Heatlhy Foods, Healthy families is a program within the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Melissa Hernandez, nutrition education assistant for AgriLife Extension, said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture funds the EFNEP, which provides free courses on nutrition education in communities across the state.

The program guided the families through changing eating habits and encouraged the involvement of family in the process, Hernandez said. 

“If the parents are eating healthy, the kids will start eating healthy,” she said.

Each session focused on a specific topic pertaining to nutrition. The topics included:  learning the food groups and the MyPlate food portions; budgeting spending on food; understanding food labels and limiting sodium, sugars and fats; food safety and management and setting goals and family incorporation, Hernandez said.

Denise Gardner, a parent at Alice Carlson said the program has been a complete lifestyle change. Healthier food choices and exercise have to become a way of life, she said.

“We are not learning a formula,” she said. “We are not learning that you eat this and this combination and you lose weight.”

Hernandez said that involving children in the process of meal preparation helped make the preparation time faster, but it also made the children more likely to eating the food, since they were directly involved in making it.  

Wendy Valenzuela, another parent said the involvement of her son in the preparation of the meal helped him realize her effort to make healthier meals and even triggered him to help her with other chores around the house.

The program has also made her aware of the dangers certain foods like sugars and fats bring about and the importance of food management to prevent bacteria and disease, she said. Now, when she goes to the grocery store, she is constantly looking at food nutrition labels.

Food she cooked used to be beige and brown and now she adds color to her meals by adding fruits and vegetables, she said.

In addition to learning about nutrition and preparing healthy foods, each session also included an exercise component, Hernandez said.

She said that she encouraged the parents to do exercise by walking more often or doing several tasks around the house.

“Healthy Food, Healthy Families” is not the only effort at Alice Carlson that has encouraged a healthy lifestyle for students, Valenzuela said

Alice Carlson constantly encourages it students to eat healthier, she said. Among the many efforts to promote health, some include, Family Picnic Nights and a Rainbow Challenge that encouraged the students to eat fruits and vegetables that were the colors of the rainbow, she said.

Gardner said that she hoped to continue to have nutrition education programs at Alice Carlson. She said as a member of the PTA, she would help bring programs like “Healthy Foods, Healthy Families” to the school.