THE BLOG
10/31/2011 05:48 pm ET Updated Dec 31, 2011

Fun: The Antidote to Childhood Obesity

There's a strong message coming out of the White House these days that has nothing to do with the economy and never mentions political parties. It's Michelle Obama's frontal assault on childhood obesity.

We here at Jamba Juice are delighted to be a supporter of the First Lady in this month's record setting "Let's Jump" initiative. Pushing our kids to be more active while having fun is a great step in battling the growing trend of childhood obesity. With that very concept in mind, we launched Team Up for a Healthy America -- providing simple and fun ways for parents and kids alike to build physical activity and healthy eating into their daily routines.

One of the best aspects of living a healthy lifestyle is that the entire family can take part together. And that family connection is at the heart of "Team Up."

On one level, "Team Up" is all about fun and motion and competing for prizes. The program leverages social media -- including Facebook and Twitter. We are teaming with active lifestyle advocates like Venus Williams and the WNBA, who provide advice and words of encouragement. We want to reach thousands with gift cards and coupons for healthy activity items.

But "Team Up" also will deliver an important educational message about the dangers of childhood obesity. We have celebrity spokespeople and an impressive array of experts writing blogs on various aspects of the topic. It's a message about eating right and exercising.

The program urges parents to engage their kids and kids to engage their parents in pledging to make healthy changes in their lifestyles. We've found that asking kids to pledge to take positive actions helps make it real -- it becomes a commitment. Anytime I make a promise, even if to myself, it's harder to break. That's a great life lesson as well as a step toward a healthier lifestyle.

Simple actions done everyday can become habits over time, and commitments to do a little more each day can make a huge difference over time. Whether it's a program like "Let's Jump" or "Team Up," little improvements -- taking the stairs, shooting hoops, eating more fruit, riding a bike, going on a hike -- do add up.

But getting kids moving and engaged is just part of the answer. Now we need to turn the same bright light on eating well.

As I look around the country, I'm concerned about the epidemic of obesity, and nowhere is the problem more acute than in the minority communities. We're delighted to have franchisees like tennis star Venus Williams who are as concerned as we are with making sure healthier food choices are available to inner-city communities. Venus is well on her way to opening five Jamba Juice locations in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

As we all know from our own childhoods, ordering children to eat broccoli and Brussels sprouts doesn't work. Some of us never do develop a taste for sprouts even as adults, even though we know they are good for us. Making healthy food choices fun is a better approach. We go to great lengths to make sure that there is an energy and a sense of fun in all of our retail locations that engages adults and kids alike.

Changing the course of this obesity epidemic is important to all of us. Overweight children have increased risk of diabetes, heart conditions, thyroid problems, digestive issues, even cancer. Did you know this is the first generation, experts are predicting, that will die at a younger age than their parents?

That's a frightening thought for any parent, but it's real. And we need to do something about the situation. It's no longer acceptable to assume they will grow out of their "baby fat." That simply isn't happening, as evidenced by the growing number of obese children.

As parents, we must take responsibility for helping them to learn how to eat better and develop a passion in them for staying active. It starts with setting a good example. But it also involves being supportive, staying positive and providing that nudge to get the process started.

Living a healthy lifestyle is about choices and about taking responsibility for yourself. Take the pledge to make that first small step.

Here are a few tips on getting started:

1. Eat light meals, including fresh fruit and vegetables. Try a healthy snack 4-5 times a day.

2. Cut back -- don't eliminate -- foods you like, even if they don't fit the definition of healthy living. Food cravings are real and powerful. Eating healthy isn't a penalty; it's a choice. And choosing to eat smaller portions of foods you love will help you stick to the plan.

3. Similarly, vary you food choices. Bananas, apples and oranges are all healthy fruits, but they're very different tastes and textures. The saying "variety is the spice of life" applies here. Use variety to stay on a healthy course.

4. Reward yourself for achieving your first goal and as you pass landmarks along the way.

5. Sometimes we all need a nudge. That's where your support system -- including web tools like our Team Up site -- can help. Use every resource you can to stay on course.

Developing a healthy lifestyle is about changing habits and making better choices for a lifetime. As adults, we set the example for our children. I encourage you the readers to join me -- Team Up -- and let's get to a healthier nation together.