by Elizabeth Holland
The Health and Behaviors Lab (HBL) in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Colorado State University is one of diversity, innovation and enthusiasm. The focus is to improve the lives of young children by implementing community-based programs around eating, physical activity and environment. By building healthy eating habits, getting parents and children involved in physical activity, and focusing on at-risk populations, faculty work to find pertinent solutions to make sure every child has the opportunity for a healthy and happy life.
Director, Laura Bellows
As director of HBL, Laura Bellows, associate professor, oversees all project workings to make sure everything runs smoothly.
“The synergy of working in communities, involving students in research, and examining the impact of innovative approaches on improving the health of children and families drives my commitment and passion for public health and behavioral research,” she said.
Currently, Nan Zeng, Kirby Reed, Noereem Mena and Morgan McCloskey are working on a project called HEROs (Healthy EnviROnments Study). HEROs is an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional project aimed at exploring how preschool programs and technology can work together to improve the health of children and their families. Over a five – six year time frame, this project will develop and evaluate a technology-based, interactive family intervention to promote healthy lifestyles for young children in the family settings.
The Restaurant Study is another current project which is headed by Ph.D. candidate, Mackenzie Ferrante. This initiative looks at the effect of children’s meals at restaurants and how they can be improved by changing the standard fries and soda combo to a vegetable and healthy beverage option with their entrée. Restaurants are willing to offer nutritious options if there is demand, so the real challenge lies in helping both children and parents make a more health conscious choice when they go out for a quick and easy dinner. Making a healthy option the default for children’s meals can turn a caloric and unhealthy dinner into an opportunity for nutrients and trying new foods.
The HBL Lab is taking great steps to improve childhood obesity and overall health conscientiousness in rural communities that might otherwise not have the opportunity for nutrition education. As more studies and programs are developed, there will be more understanding of how to jump start health for children across the United States as well as give parents and teachers tools to continue a healthy lifestyle.