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The NFL, nutrition, and kids

As I write in this week's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column, major-league football players have to work hard -- and often need lots of help -- to stay fit and maintain enough energy to practice and play well.

I was surprised when interviewing several Redskins players to find that many struggle with the same eating challenges that the rest of us face. Clinton Portis, for instance, used to love eating at Chik-fil-A and Popeye's a few times a week -- not the best nutrition for a football player or a fan. Many NFL teams employ nutritionists to help players learn to eat more healthfully, with optimal athletic performance in mind.

Clinton Portis used to love eating Popeyes a few times a week. (John Mcdonnell)

Ideally, we'd all learn to feed ourselves well and get all the exercise we need when we're children and then carry those skills with us throughout our lives. Alas, as today's childhood obesity statistics sadly demonstrate, too few kids seem to be getting off to the best start in terms of diet and physical activity.

To help change that, the NFL has teamed up with the National Dairy Council to sponsor a school-based program called "Fuel Up to Play 60." The goal: To get kids to eat more healthfully and to be physically active for 60 minutes a day (that's how long a football game lasts on the clock). Perhaps most important of all, the program tries to help kids make the connection between the food they put in their mouths and their bodies' ability to run, jump, skip and throw a ball.

"Fuel Up" has many partners; earlier this month it scored big when it was announced that Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" program would partner with both "Fuel Up" and "NFL Play 60," (an NFL/American Heart Association-sponsored program to get kids moving). Together they're working to boost participation in the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award program.

As Monday's blog noted, government efforts to get adults to eat more fruits and vegetables as part of a healthful diet have sputtered, and yet the plan is to continue to pour more government money into those efforts. I'm a lot more comfortable having private-sector investment in the mix; there's a different sense of accountability, I think, when private money's involved. In any case, it's clear that we're all going to have to pull together -- as a team -- if we're going to win this childhood-obesity battle.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | September 14, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Childhood obesity, Nutrition and Fitness, Obesity  
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