By Denise Dick
First-graders Hayleigh Egan-Thompson and Da’Shawna White clapped their hands, swayed their hips and pumped their arms while watching and listening to skits and songs about good nutrition.
FoodPlay Productions, based in Massachusetts, performed at Martin Luther King Elementary School on Wednesday for kindergartners through second-graders — teaching students about healthy vs. unhealthy food choices with juggling, magic, games and songs.
Hayleigh, 6, learned that milk is a healthy choice while Da’Shawna found out about the benefits of eating an apple.
Despite the nutritional value of spinach, though, neither girl has any plans of incorporating it into her diet. Just the thought brings a grimace to Hayleigh’s freckled face.
FoodPlay players are Carlos Leon, coach of the junior juggling team, and Alyssa Bryner as Janey, who is preparing to try out for the team.
“There are 300,000 different types of food to choose from,” the coach tells the students.
Many of those didn’t even exist when their parents or grandparents were their age.
“That’s why it’s so important to learn to juggle,” he said, juggling three rings to the children’s delight.
Everyone has to learn to juggle food choices, the coach said.
Janey either skips meals or gorges on unhealthy choices like cookies, fast food, soda, candy and salty snacks. Those options may give her quick energy, but she burns out fast. The coach called those “Whoa foods.”
The coach has to school her on the benefits of healthier choices — fruits and vegetables, water, juice, milk and whole grains — which he called “Go foods.”
Take an apple versus a prepackage apple pie, for example. An apple is fresh, full of fiber and nutrients. An apple pie strips away the fiber and adds sugar, salt and fat. “There’s more salt in this pie than in an entire order of fries,” he told the students.