By Emily Williams
Vestavia Hills-based organization Heal Inc. has unveiled a new program that supports its mission to teach children how to live a healthy lifestyle.
Throughout the school year, teacher Kendall Kennedy’s family and consumer science classes at Louis Pizitz Middle School in Vestavia Hills participated in lessons on healthy eating, and they put what they learned to the test at the end of the year with a healthy snack cookoff, dubbed the Heal Snack Challenge.
According to Kennedy, the purpose of the entire course was to nurture an understanding of the basic food groups and the specific benefits of healthy ingredients.
The kids had to create their own healthy snack recipes for the challenge and present video and verbal presentations to showcase their knowledge of the ingredients and their benefits. In another major selling point, the snacks had to be tasty.
The final round of the competition took place May 3, with judges chef Kathy G. Mezrano, dietician Linda Godfrey and CBS42 News anchor Sherri Jackson tasting the final 11 students’ healthy snack recipes.
The winners of the competition were: Mani Aguilar’s baked pita chips and guacamole, first place; Mitchell Towns’ sweet potato bites and Nye Moore’s turkey roll-up kabobs, tied for second; and Mary Nelson Litty’s fruity cinnamon vanilla granola, third.
On May 23, the finalists gathered with Christy Swaid, founder of Heal, at the Heal Offices and Alabama Public Television filmed commercials that will air June through September showcasing some of the kids’ recipes.
Moore showcased his second-place turkey kabobs, explaining how the recipe represents ingredients from each of the major food groups.
Third place-winner Litty presented a fruit parfait, featuring oats for heart health, wheat germ, pecans for protein, raisins for the immune system and vanilla non-fat Greek yogurt, which is good for bone health.
In addition to the shorts, APT filmed the Snack Challenge finals and plans to feature them on the channel in the late summer or early fall.
According to Swaid, Pizitz Middle School acted as a test subject of sorts for a new program, complementing the organization’s original program implemented in 2007.
The organization as a whole is the brainchild of Swaid, who was inspired to help teach children the importance of a healthy and active lifestyle after relocating from California to Alabama in 2002.
A retired stunt woman and six-time world champion watercraft racer, Swaid’s successful career rested on the foundation of maintaining health.
“A healthy lifestyle requires knowledge, moderation and balance, and these skills are not common to everyone,” she said.
In 2006, Swaid formally organized Heal Inc., which stands for Healthy Eating Active Living, and the nonprofit launched a six-month pilot program a year later to test the initiative on 10 fifth-grade physical education classes in the state.
As a mother of two young boys, Swaid said she understands the challenges of teaching kids the importance of physical fitness and nutritional habits.
“Like many American families, we occasionally drive through our favorite fast-food restaurants and indulge in junk food,” she said. But the key is moderation.
With the original program seeking to make physical fitness more fun and informative, the snack challenge seeks to help kids get more aware of the foods they put into their bodies.