WOODS CROSS -- A group of girls in Davis County are trading television for exercise and candy for fruit.
The preteens and their moms have been exploring eating healthy and exercising, without overly focusing on body weight, through the Davis County Health Department BodyWorks program.
"I've been cutting back on eating sugar, and I'm walking and running on a walking path in our neighborhood," said 9-year-old Emma Carmack. "I'm also keeping a food journal."
Her grandmother, Lauri Wootton, attended the class with Emma. She said while going through the six-week program she has become more aware of unhealthy advertising that targets young people, much of it found on kids' channels.
Kaitlin Thomason, 10, said she and her mother are staying more active.
"We've learned how to exercise better. We've gotten things to help us exercise," Kaitlin said.
She said even though she is committed to eating healthier, sometimes she misses sugary snacks.
"We've found some things that are low in sugar and yummy," Kaitlin said.
The program, a pilot in Davis County, was designed after years of research by the Office of Women's Health in Washington, D.C., according to health department dietician Bonnie Athas, who directs the Davis classes.
"Girls have issues with their bodies for various reasons, not necessarily due to being overweight," Athas said. "The program was designed so girls can talk about their bodies and discover what is normal. We all have different shapes and sizes that are normal."
Athas said preteens and early teens are target groups for the program because changes can be made at those early stages that could likely be carried on throughout life. She said the classes stress the importance of exercise and teach proper nutrition using the food pyramid with an emphasis on reading food labels.
"Sugary foods and snacks can elevate blood pressure," she said. "Those are instant fixes, causing sugar highs and then dipping into energy lows. Many of the high-sugar foods and drinks also contain a lot of caffeine. These combinations can also lead to sleep problems and low energy while awake."
Athas said a parent or caregiver is required to attend the classes with the girl so they too can make lifestyle changes and become role models for their families.
"Parents need to understand that responsibility -- that they are being watched by their children," she said.
Athas said each family gets a "tool kit" that contains a DVD on nutrition, a recipe book, a pedometer and other materials that promote healthy living.
"They plan their breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack menus for the week," Athas said.
"Each week they report changes in food choices and in exercising."
The program, partially funded by a federal grant, encourages families to eat together to promote a healthier home environment and more successful families, Athas said. It also encourages watching less television in exchange for physical activities.
During class, ingredients are provided so the girls can practice making healthy snacks and sandwiches.
Besides Athas, the classes are taught by a local pediatrician and a nurse practitioner. To encourage long-term commitment to BodyWorks, the group will reunite on Aug. 15 at Davis County Walks, being held at the Legacy Events Center, 151 S. 1100 West, Farmington.
Athas said other BodyWorks classes, which are held one day a week in the evening for six weeks, could be planned if enough community interest is shown. She encourages anyone who wants to attend to call her at (801) 451-3230.