It's not easy for any of us to eat right and stay fit, and it may be especially hard for kids, whose worlds are filled with pizza, cupcakes and fast food.
But they might do better if they undertake the quest with their peers. That's why a number of organizations on Long Island offer group nutrition and weight-control programs for tweens and teens. Here are a few:
HEALTHIER TOMORROWS : Huntington Hospital (in cooperation with Huntington YMCA), 270 Park Ave., Huntington, 631-351-7923, hunthosp.org (search "Healthier Tomorrows")
A 10-week program with the goal of teaching healthy choices. Children meet twice a week for a one-hour exercise program, plus nutrition education and discussion sessions. "Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important not only for one's current health, but childhood health tends to track into the adult years," says Dr. Thomas McDonagh, medical director of Healthier Tomorrows and chief of the department of pediatrics at Huntington Hospital. And having a fit body can help self-esteem. "I hate shopping because I can't buy the things I really like," says Jessie Young, 14, a freshman at Elwood's John Glenn High School. "I buy clothes because I feel more comfortable in them." That's one thing that spurred Jessie to join Healthier Tomorrows this school year.
AGES: 9 to 12, and 13 to 16
REQUIREMENTS: A BMI (body mass index) at or greater than the 95th percentile and clearance from pediatrician
NEXT PROGRAM: Begins Feb. 26. Meets at Huntington YMCA, 60 Main St., Huntington
COST: $100 total in two payments of $50 each; reduced costs or scholarship available, based on need
WEIGHT WATCHERS: weightwatchers.com , 800-651-6000
The Weight Watchers Momentum Program helps children make smart food choices and track everything they eat so they realize everything they are taking in. Nassau has one 40-minute youth meeting each week in Wantagh at 3:45 p.m. Fridays, although adults can and often do attend the meeting as well. In Suffolk, meetings geared toward teens take place, according to the Web site, at the Bay Shore, Lake Grove, Commack, West Babylon, Huntington and Greenlawn centers.
"They talk about challenges, successes and strategies particular to their age group - the school lunches, activities, parties and social events," says Elyse Silver, a Nassau County Weight Watchers group leader. "They don't want to feel like they're watching what they're eating while everyone else is indulging. " If they can't make the youth meeting, children can attend any scheduled Weight Watchers meeting, Silver says.
AGES: 10 to 16
REQUIREMENTS: Physician's note with an approved goal weight
NEXT PROGRAM BEGINS: Ongoing registration. Locations throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties
COST: $12 a week; for now, registration fees are being waived.
MY WEIGH TO STAY FIT: One Potato Two Tomato, 9 Albertson Ave., Albertson, 516-286-5255, onepotatotwotomato.com
An eight-week session with 75-minute meetings Wednesday nights and alternating Saturday mornings. Sessions include nutrition education and group fitness workouts in the gym. "We do meal planning and label reading and all kinds of nutritional education," says Laura Lynn Iacono, the program's nutrition and fitness director. "Each week, we go over a different topic." The goal is to lose one to two pounds a week, or eight to 16 pounds for the run of the session.
AGES: 9 to 13
NEXT PROGRAM BEGINS: Next month, meeting at One Potato Two Tomato's Family, Child and Adolescent Healthy Lifestyle Center in Albertson
COST: $595, plus $50 registration fee