What Happens When a Grown-up Tries the Kids N Fitness Class?

Published on 
March 20, 2014

By Jennifer Jing, MS, media liaison and science writer, Marketing Communications, The Saban Research Institute at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. 

Did you know that popcorn is a whole grain? I learned this—and other helpful nutrition facts—at my first Kids N Fitness© class last week. Now in its 14th year, this evidence-based program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles works to educate children between 8-16 years old and their families on nutrition, healthy eating habits and exercise.

Kids N Fitness is directed by Megan Lipton-Inga, MIA, CCRP, taught by Emily Millen and supported by energetic volunteers from nearby colleges and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Eat the Rainbow

I walked into the Kids N Fitness classroom around dinner time and was met with tables of pasta, ice cream, eggs and a variety of fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately for my grumbling stomach, this delicious spread was made from waxy replicas.

Hunger aside, I took a seat in the back and waited for the rest of the class to file in. Today’s lesson would be an introduction to the five food groups and MyPlate, the newest adaptation of the food pyramid.

Emily began the class by asking which of our favorite foods would fit into each category. The students and parents held up their models in the appropriate group.

Waffles were raised for grains, lemons were raised for fruit and so on. But then the questions got tougher.

“Which food group is Jell-O in? Other than meat, what gives us protein? What kind of food is cauliflower?”

We learned that not all vegetables are created equal—there are different types, and some are better for you than others.

We also discussed how to “eat the rainbow.” To the disappointment of the class—myself included—Emily emphasized that this was not encouragement to scarf down a bag of Skittles. Instead, she explained that the healthiest plate has a variety of different colors. Bananas, corn and squash may represent several food groups, but they are all the same sunny shade of yellow.

Emily continued, “What’s the difference between whole and refined grains?” “Whole grains are brown!” came an energetic reply. I nodded approvingly. … That’s something I’ve picked up on throughout my grocery shopping experiences.

“Not quite …” We learned the molecular difference between these two choices and why whole grains keep us fuller for longer.


Forty-five minutes later, we could rattle off healthy snacking choices and explain what foods we should eat sparingly. The group was then separated as the students—siblings included—went to exercise while the parents continued their lesson in the classroom.

I took off with the “kid group!”

High-Fives All Around

Bounding down the stairs and across the hospital, the energy pent-up from the nutrition lesson let loose. We warmed up by toe-touching, lunging, galloping and jogging across the room.

The main exercise was set up after we were significantly sweaty and breathless. This week, it was circuits with stations for jumping jacks, jumping through a path of cones and doing “up-downs” (the “up” part pictured here). After every set, we high-fived and cheered.

This is So Fun!

I left my first, but hopefully not last, Kids N Fitness class smiling and energized.

In this gluten-free, vegan, juice-crazed city, I am proud to see Children’s Hospital Los Angeles support a program centered on making small changes towards a healthy lifestyle. There’s no cutting out junk food “cold turkey”, or ultimatums requiring a switch from whole milk to skim. Instead, health is built from the basics: Calories consumed should equal calories used.

For the next five  weeks, the Kids N Fitness participants will learn how to read nutrition labels, measure the sugar in soft drinks and will keep a log of their weekly goals (this week’s goal is to eat breakfast every day). They will emerge from this program as a group of active, nutrition-conscious children and families.

As of now, the kids are already hooked. Laughing during our galloping warm-up, a young girl exclaimed, “This is so fun!”

And it really was.