In the Community
Healthy Habits Start with Curiosity

hat would it be like if you didn’t have any bones?” a Cedars-Sinai community health educator asks a group of second-graders.

Many small hands go up.

“You couldn’t bend your arms or knees,” one student answers.

“You wouldn’t have any energy,” another says.

The children are participating in a one-hour workshop called Healthy Habits for Kids, part of Cedars-Sinai’s broad-based effort to fight obesity. This 10-week nutrition and fitness program is offered in a number of elementary schools throughout the year, primarily in underserved neighborhoods in Mid-City, Los Angeles.

Health Habits Start with Curiosity

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The question about bones relates to the word of the day: calcium. The students learn about how calcium builds strong bones and teeth, the healthiest choices in the “dairy” food group and where these products come from — which leads to many questions about cows.

The children are eager to find out what’s in the bag of groceries the health educator has brought to class. They line up as she unpacks the ingredients for a yogurt parfait — low-fat yogurt, whole-grain cereal and canned peaches. They mix the ingredients together back at their kid-size desks, then quietly savor their creations.


This is one of a number of nutritious — and tasty — snacks they discover over the course of the workshop. Another favorite is “ants on a log,” a celery stick topped with peanut butter and raisins. The children are given easy-to-prepare recipes like these to encourage healthier snacking at home.

Parents report that the Healthy Habits sessions are making a difference. As one mother wrote in a program evaluation: “Thank you for teaching my daughter to eat healthy. It helped a lot to show the difference between healthy food and junk food. Now she knows what is good for her body.”

Grocery Shopping 101

ine women huddle in the bread aisle
at Ralphs market at the corner of
Crenshaw and Slauson, searching the
labels to find a brand with whole wheat and
at least three grams of fiber per serving. Next
stop: the dairy section. The women take notes
as they go from one section to another,
skipping the aisles lined with chips, candy
and sodas.

A Cedars-Sinai community health educator
leads this Grocery Store Tour, a program
launched by the Medical Center in 2008 in partnership with the Los Angeles Urban
League. Participants learn how to choose
healthy foods on a budget. Many become avid
food label readers once they see how
dramatically ingredients can vary in different brands of the same product. “It feels good to


shop more intelligently,” says one woman after the Ralphs tour. The tours are offered several times a year. This is one of many ways Cedars-Sinai supports the Urban League’s Neighborhoods@Work Initiative, a multifaceted effort to improve quality of life in a 70-square-block area of the Park Mesa Heights community in the Crenshaw district.

Hooked on Fitness

hey started exercising together during the 10-week Healthy Habits for Families workshop Cedars-Sinai offers at their children’s elementary school — and they got hooked. When the sessions ended, about 20 moms continued to meet on their own for regular workouts, many with children
in tow.

Claudia Gutierrez, the Cedars-Sinai community health liaison who led the workshop at Arlington Heights Elementary School, is thrilled to see this because her goal is to help parents set the right example for their children.

Says Cindy Levey, associate director of Community Health Initiatives at Cedars-Sinai: “Once parents make lifestyle changes that model healthy behavior, they can help their children get started on a lifetime of good eating and exercise habits, while reducing their own risk of developing health problems as they get older.”