Photo of child's hands planting seedlingBecky Comet, a former contestant on “The Biggest Loser,” and Kelly Meyer, co-founder of the American Heart Association’s Teaching Gardens, appeared on the television show last night to share how they’re offering healthier options to children at an Arkansas school.

On the show, Comet and Meyer plant an American Heart Association Teaching Garden with students from Benton Middle School, where Comet taught math before retiring.

There are more than 200 American Heart Association Teaching Gardens across the country, where students learn to plant seeds, nurture growing plants, harvest crops and ultimately better understand the value of good eating habits. It challenges kids to make small changes to improve their health and encourages them to share their knowledge with their families and others, according to the AHA.

“If children are invested in the process of planting and growing their own food, they will be invested in cooking and eating their own food,” Meyer said on the program. “If they grow it, they eat it.”

The program includes a curriculum with garden-related classroom lessons and activities for teaching nutrition, math, science and language arts.

“I’ve taught kids for 28 years and this is the most excited I’ve ever seen kids about a lesson,” Comet said on the program.

“We challenge you America to eat fruits and vegetables,” cheered Meyer and the students at the end of the segment.

Today, about one in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese, which is causing health problems previously not seen until adulthood, according to the AHA. Arkansas ranks 12th among the states in the number of overweight and obese kids ages 10-17, based on the 2011 National Survey of Children’s Health.

Studies show garden-based nutrition programs may increase fruit and vegetable intake in children, and may increase younger children’s willingness to try them. In one study, adults with a household member who participated in a community garden consumed fruits and vegetables 1.4 more times per day than those who did not participate, and were 3.5 times more likely to eat fruits and vegetables at least five times daily.

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