The main goal behind “Fuel Up To Play 60,” the program founded by the National Dairy Council and NFL, is to empower children with daily exercise and nutritional knowledge while encouraging them to teach their peers about it.
On Saturday, during the annual NBC4 Health & Fitness Expo in Washington, D.C., the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association gave elementary students an ideal platform to spread that message.
Selected from four local elementary schools, five young, budding chefs were given the opportunity to display their skills in the kitchen. Perched on a demonstration stage, each took turns discussing simple and healthy meals and snacks in front of a family-oriented audience.
The students described recipes and directions for making treats like chocolate banana shakes and peaches with cream. They also gave worthy advice, like making sure to keep the lid on the blender.
In between preparing dishes, they paused to do exercises to music and get the crowd out of their seats and get active.
“I just knew right away this was going to be incredible,” said Hugh Brockway, a physical education teacher at Lovettsville Elementary school, about the “Fuel Up To Play 60” program. “I was one of the [few] in our county that accomplished any of the tasks that you have to do to get this in your program.”
Brockway, who became involved with the campaign in 2012 and has been helping promote it to other area schools, led the range of musical exercises with the kids. He was excited the Redskins invited him to speak about his programming if only to spread an important message.
While making sure students eat healthy is a major task for school systems, Brockway knows getting proper physical activity—and making it creative—is just as vital to staying fit.
“You kind of do an assessment of your school and say, ‘What could we do differently than just exercise?’” he said. “For example, in our school we are in the stages of planning with the kids help to paint our blacktop so there’s more stuff for kids to do.”
Across the convention hall, past the countless dance workouts and blood drives, the same idea was in full effect. As parents signed up for Redskins programs and collected pamphlets, their kids enjoyed some running drills and played catch with a football.
As new audience members settled in, the second half of Saturday’s demonstration featured Redskins executive chef Jon Mathieson and team dietician Rob Skinner, putting together a typical meal they would prepare for players and coaches at Redskins Park.
Mathieson cooked up a Cobia entrée with broccoli raab, shitake mushrooms and Farrell grains, offering a variety of vegetables, which he joked are sometimes difficult to feed to hungry football players.
“It was a typical dish we’d do at the park for the players and coaches,” Mathieson said. “You want to use some green vegetables, get a great starch, and a nice piece of fish or meat on the lean side.”
While he cooked, Skinner described his duties taking nutritional care of the team and took questions about types of foods being used as well as ways to help dieting. For him, the expo demonstration is a way to educate others about eating well and an opportunity to keep his expertise sharp.
“I like getting asked questions shotgun style so that I can make sure I’m still on top of my game,” Skinner said. “If somebody says, ‘How many grams of this?’ I’ve got the answers for them. So I prep for this by looking up all the ingredients and reminding myself… It’s enjoyable for me.”
He also shared some intriguing tips about cutting out sweets.
“Taste experts say that after three bites of a dessert, technically you can’t taste the difference,” he said. “So if you can take those three bites and push it away or share it with a friend you’ll be better off.”
What’s most valuable — for Skinner, for the athletes he helps, for the hundreds passing by Saturday— is taking away a small, practical suggestion. For one attendee, that meant learning about Farrell, a new grain ingredient she’ll now likely be adding to her cupboard.
“We just expanded her palette,” Skinner said enthusiastically, “which is what we try to do with players every day.”
The 2015 NBC4 Health & Fitness Expo continues from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Walter E. Washington Center – 801 Mt. Vernon Plaza NW – in Washington, D.C.