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It can be tough for busy school administrators, pediatricians, cafeteria workers, teachers and parents to figure out the best ways to teach young people how to live a healthy lifestyle.

That’s why Dr. Deborah Kennedy decided to break things down.

The Leader created Build Healthy Kids, an easy-to-understand nutritional and physical education program that explains healthy living habits. Based on recommendations from the American Heart Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the year-long program focuses on one easy-to-understand topic each month, such as limiting screen time, getting enough Vitamin D and avoiding sugary drinks.

“My impressions are that kids know a lot, they just don’t do it,” Kennedy tells the Inside Track. “All they need is a nudge.”

Kennedy has more than two decades of experience as a nutritionist, including stints at Yale University’s Prevention Research Center and Columbia, Tufts and Cornell Universities. She’s also authored several books on nutrition, including Nutrition Bites and Beat Sugar Addiction Now! For Kids.

In creating Build Healthy Kids, Kennedy sought to make the often complex world of healthy nutrition easier for people to understand and actually begin to implement in their own lives. At the heart of the program is a monthly newsletter that explains the concepts, with one side designed for adults and the other for kids. Kennedy also created promotional posters for school cafeterias and classrooms that remind kids (and adults) about the monthly healthy habit.

Build Healthy Kids is currently being tested in Guilford Public Schools in Connecticut — this month’s topic focuses on choosing healthy proteins — and dozens of other districts have expressed interest in beginning the program.

Kennedy notes that the program can easily fit into classroom lessons or other health promotion efforts — and also is a good tie-in to the new school meal guidelines being implemented nationwide. “There’s always a champion at each school who takes it and really makes it their own,” Kennedy says.

Pediatricians also use the program in their offices, as it provides a way to give young patients and their parents constructive advice to reach or maintain a healthy weight. Instead of merely telling kids to eat more vegetables, for example, pediatricians can tell them to aim to eat three vegetables a day, and offer parents strategies for getting youngsters to actually eat them.

Along with giving teachers and doctors tools for explaining nutrition and physical activity concepts, the program can be used by high school students looking for community service opportunities. High schoolers are instructed on how to teach the concepts, and then present them to elementary schoolers.

It’s a win-win. Teenagers — who aren’t always receptive to traditional lessons on healthy living — absorb the lessons without even realizing they’ve been taught. Younger kids, meanwhile, are excited to learn things being taught by the cool older kids.

One teenager who took part in the program, for example, realized that she wasn’t consuming enough calcium while preparing her own lesson.  She started drinking more milk to make up for it, Kennedy says.

Connect with Dr. Deborah Kennedy and find out how to sign up for Build Healthy Kids.