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Best of the Worst

Vermont was just ranked one of the best states in the nation this month in terms of obesity by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  But upon taking a closer look, it’s not something to be proud of as Vermont is really just the best of the worst.

This is because more than a quarter of our population – 25.1% -- is obese.  It’s a disturbing trend given that Vermont’s obesity rates are still climbing – up from 10.7% in 1990 and 17% in 2000.

The report also notes that if current trends continue, Vermont’s 38,031 cases of heart disease could climb to 190,617 by 2030 and the 10,273 cases of obesity-related cancer could climb to 27,751 cases.

There is good news to be sure.  The number of high school students who drink one soda or more a day has dropped by nearly 40 percent since 2007, to around one in five. But, the number of high school students who report playing video or computer games three or more hours a day has increased more than 88 percent since 2003 from 22.1 to 41.7 percent.

There is still more work to be done. We hope you’ll support our policy efforts to reduce obesity and improve healthy weights this coming session. Two very important efforts will be setting nutrition standards for restaurant kids’ meals and encouraging the state to include physical education in its state accountability plans required by the Every student Succeeds Act. These measures will help make the healthy choice the easy choice for Vermont kids.

Tell your legislator you hope they'll make reducing obesity a priority this coming session. You can find them here.

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Come have a healthy meal for kids on us!

The  American Heart Association is teaming up with seven restaurants across the  state to host fun healthy kids meals events in September! Over the next few weeks, the chefs at these restaurants will be serving delicious, heart-healthy free kids meals to local families.

These  meals will meet the nutrition standards proposed in legislation (H.759) last year in Vermont that would have set a standard for any restaurant that offers Kids Meals. At each location, the first 50 kids will receive a free healthy kids meal to try and offer feedback to the restaurants. 


  • Americans now spend more of their food budget on foods prepared away from home than on foods at home.
  • Children consume roughly 25 percent of their calories from eating out, and eat almost twice as many calories when they eat at a restaurant as they do  when they eat at home.  
  • For  each additional serving of soda or juice drink a child consumes per day, the child's chance of becoming overweight increases by 60%.
  • Over 60% of Vermont adults and 29% of Vermont youth are overweight or obese.


Dine out between the hours listed. No reservations necessary. Open to the public. First 50 kids receive a free healthy kids meal.

For more information, contact Let us know if you'll be coming!


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Supporting the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act!

Thanks to board member Jennifer Nachbur and Advocacy Committee member Lana Khuong for promoting strong nutrition standards in schools. Both volunteers met with U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy’s staff during the August recess to encourage the senator’s continued support of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act.

Senator Leahy is a sponsor of the legislation. Since becoming law in December 2010, it has given America’s children access to healthier food options for breakfast, lunch, and throughout the school day. 97% of schools and diverse communities across the country are meeting the requirements and ensuring their students are getting a head start on a healthy lifestyle.

 In Vermont:

  • 92.7% of school districts are successfully serving healthy meals that meet strong nutrition standards
  • The current obesity rate of 10-17 year olds is 11.3%
  • 47% of districts need kitchen infrastructure changes in at least one school
  • 50,500 students participated in school lunch program in 2014
  • 22,969 students participated in school breakfast program in 2014

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Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice - Start with Blueberries and Help with Policy!

I don’t know about you, but this time of year, all I want to do is snack on fresh Vermont blueberries. Yummy! I put a bowl in the front of our fridge, and every time the door is opened, it’s hard for someone in my family not to grab a handful and pop them in their mouth.

That’s a great example of how a family can make the healthy choice the easy choice. Make what’s healthier easier to do than what is not healthy.

There are many organizations getting on board this simple, but effective strategy. And you can too!

Recently, the Vermont Department of Health launched its 3-4-50 campaign. This highlights that three behaviors are responsible for four diseases that cause fifty percent of the deaths in Vermont. Making healthy choices easier, is a big part of VDH’s plan to combat these chronic diseases. Click on their link to find out more ways that you can make the healthy choice the easy choice.

And make sure you take action on our advocacy issues as well to make healthy choices more accessible to Vermonters. Healthy restaurant kids meals, tobacco prevention funding, raising the age to purchase tobacco to 21 and helping to ensure complete streets that are safe for walkers and bicyclists are some of the issues we’ll be addressing when the legislature returns in January. We’re counting on you to help make the healthy choice the easy choice at home, work and in policies for all!

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Katie Towle - Supporting Families and Pushing for Critical Heart Tests for Kids

Katie Towle knows there are two things that can help a child when they are born with a heart defect – a life-saving test that can help detect it, and the support of other families with children who also have heart defects.

Katie helped promote the need for mandatory pulse oximetry testing for newborns at our legislative reception this winter. She’s a big advocate because her son Jack did NOT receive this test when he was born.

Katie said then, “Had this simple, painless test been done upon birth, we may have been able to have his repair surgery months earlier and avoided so many hospital stays with over 30 nights cumulatively away from our older child, our home and our jobs. Due to the delay in his surgery, Jack’s growth was significantly delayed and his physical development fell drastically behind the national standards.”

Katie will be promoting that pulse oximetry be the standard screening adopted when the Vermont Health Department undertakes a rulemaking to require congenital heart defect screening this year.

She also just formed a cardiac kids’ support group of parents and kids with congenital heart defects. We all had a great time attending the Lake Monsters game together this summer! If you have a child with a congenital heart defect, let me know. We’d love to connect you with this wonderful group and we would also love your help in requiring this test for newborns in Vermont. My email is

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Healthy Kids Meals, Good for Kids and Good for Business!

Parents rely on restaurants often these days for meals given hectic work and family schedules. But even though dining out is fun, fast, and easy, it’s not always healthy for kids. We’d like to change that.

We’re working in Vermont to ensure that all restaurant kids’ meals meet nutrition standards to serve our kids better. When we surveyed Vermont restaurants last year, they said they could make changes to improve the nutrition of their kids' meals relatively easily. But they wanted to make sure kids would eat the meals, and parents would buy them. Now we have some good news.

New research from Tufts shows that when a restaurant group they studied eliminated fries and sodas from kids’ meals, orders of healthy entrees and sides went up! Check it out for yourself! 

Kids were able to eat healthy and restaurants still made a profit. Let your local restaurants know that healthy meals for kids are good for kids and business.

We’ll be serving healthy kids meals to the public for free this September at events at seven restaurants across Vermont. Let us know if you’re interested and we’ll hook you up with a location near you!

Email me at tina.zuk@heartorg.

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July Means Healthier Eating Statewide

One of the great things that happened when you flipped your calendar on July 1st was that that’s the day the state of Vermont began requiring state agencies to meet nutrition standards for the foods they sell and serve. And you’re part of the reason!

We advocated this past legislative session for legislation requiring nutrition standards for state government in vending, food service and institutions. We wanted state government to walk the walk so other businesses and organizations across Vermont would follow suit. The legislation passed, the governor signed it into law in May and the health department just released its nutrition standards last Friday!

Thanks for helping us make this a reality! Vermont is currently the only state to require nutrition standards in all three areas!

Please take a moment to thank the members of the Senate Health and Welfare and House Health Care Committees who gave their support to this effort. They were true champions and we couldn’t have done it without them. Take action at:

Here’s to healthy eating in Vermont!

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Helping Us Fight the Silent Killer

High blood pressure is called The Silent Killer for a reason.  It has no symptoms, so you may not be aware that it's damaging your arteries, heart and other organs. When left untreated, possible health consequences can include heart disease, heart attack, stroke and congestive heart failure.

But, the sad fact is that too many people have high blood pressure. Currently in Vermont, 31% of adults suffer from high blood pressure. That means 128,688 people! And that number is predicted to climb to more than 174,000 people by 2030 if current obesity trends continue.

That’s why we’re excited by an effort by one of our Vermont partners, the YMCA, to treat high blood pressure. The Y’s Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring Program helps adults with hypertension to lower and manage their blood pressure. With the help of a Healthy Heart Ambassador, the four month program focuses on regulated home self-monitoring of a person’s blood pressure and the participant is provided with individualized consultations and nutrition education for better blood pressure management.

The program will include nutrition education seminars each month that focus on dietary approaches to reducing hypertension, reducing sodium intake, shopping, cooking and food preparation, and eating for your heart.

A really neat bonus to the program in our area is a 30 day family membership at the Greater Burlington YMCA. Find out more and see if you're eligible by contacting Kristin Magnant at or at (802) 652-8196 .

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Imagine Getting a Healthy Kids Meal Anywhere

Imagine going out to eat with your family and knowing that any restaurant you chose that had a kids’ meal would offer some nice, healthy choices. Any restaurant. That’s what we’re striving for.

But that’s not the case currently. Today, due to work demands and hectic school and sport schedules, families are eating out more than ever. But our kids are paying the price. Only 3% of restaurant kids’ meals currently meet nutrition standards and this translates to kids getting one fourth of their calories from eating out.

We’re working on an exciting campaign in Vermont to require all restaurants that advertise kids’ meals to meet nutrition standards for those meals. And we want to help them in a fun way. This summer, we’ll be recruiting chefs across the state to prepare menus based on our nutrition standards, train other chefs and hold events this fall at select restaurants across the state so families can see what it’s like to walk into a restaurant and know that anything they chose on the kids menu is going to be good for their kids. And the meals will be on us!

No sugary drink, fewer calories and salt, at least a half cup of fresh fruit and vegetables like these great Vermont strawberries and a lean protein or whole grain. Wouldn’t that be a treat?!

Stay tuned for more information as we move ahead and plan on attending one of our healthy restaurant events this fall with your kids. Email me if you’re interested in attending or getting involved at

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UVM Student Research Aids Restaurant Kids Meal Effort

An important part of advocacy is knowing the current environment surrounding an issue. Thanks to research conducted by UVM medical students this past year, we have great data to help us in our efforts this summer and fall to promote nutrition standards for kids meals at Vermont restaurants.  

As part of a public health project with the American Heart Association, the students surveyed Vermont restaurants who served kids meals and found that while 80% of restaurants said they offered healthy entrees, 80% also said they offered unhealthy entrees. This makes it more difficult for parents to feed their kids healthy because kids are often going to want to choose the unhealthy option that they perceive as more flavorful. We want to ensure that all entrée options on the kids’ meals menus are healthy to ensure kids can choose a healthy option, help parents and level the playing field because all Vermont restaurants that serve kids meals would be serving healthy meals. 

Another area to work on is that more than 50% of the restaurants still serve soda with their kids’ meals. But the good news is that the survey results showed the restaurant owners largely DISAGREED that their sales would decrease if they changed their beverage options. And most owners agreed that they had access to resources to make the changes easily.

 With some good data behind us, thanks to the UVM medical students, we hope you’ll help us as well in promoting the need for restaurants to make the healthy choice the easy choice on kids’ meals.

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