For a group of urban teen girls, lessons in nutrition began in the produce section and ended in dairy at a suburban supermarket a few miles from their school. But the give-and-take was the most energetic in the meat section.
Stay away from the bacon, salami and the frying pan, a university student dietitian advised the teens. Broil or grill lean protein like fish instead. Trim the fat off red meat and the skin off chicken.
"The skin makes the chicken taste good," protested 15-year-old Andrea Hagins. But she acknowledged that "if it's better to help my health, I should try it out."
The young women are students in Teem Esteem, a 3-year-old program that aims to teach good nutrition and offers options to the standard physical education classes at Trenton Central High School. The girls are guided through a supermarket and taught how to buy more nutritious foods.
Their fitness classes offer enticing options, including circuit training, cardio dance and karate complete with a trainer who trains them on the use of exercise balls and free weights.
They also get instruction on cooking and hear lectures on topics such as body image, date rape and bulimia, said their teacher Constance Kelley.
About half the students at the school come from low-income households, a group that is at risk for obesity and its related diseases, said Bonnie Arkus, director of the New Jersey-based Women's Heart Foundation, which is collaborating with the school.
If teens can establish healthy eating habits now, they can reduce their risk for chronic ilnesses such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease, said Gerri McKay, associate professor of nutrition at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.