March 26, 2017

Coral Gables High students learn the virtual reality of healthy eating and nutrition

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Sugar Goggles, an innovative virtual reality game designed to teach students the importance of a healthy diet, has been unveiled at Coral Gables Senior High School.

At the school on March 15, Atkins Nutritionals announced a partnership with Healthcorp, a nonprofit organization dedicated to equipping students with the tools to improve mental and physical health, as well as making conscious eating choices, said Scott Parker, Atkins’ chief marketing officer

Parker believes the partnership will further the mission of empowering students to live healthier lives. “We know that when working and educating young people being high-tech, engaging and fun works best,” he said as he introduced Sugar Goggles.

Sugar Goggles takes users through the blood vessels in the human body and shows the different physical reactions of sugar consumption. The object of the game is to collect as many points possible by identifying the healthier food choice between a pair of options, as the user “travels” through the blood stream.

A healthy low-sugar choice, which provides balanced energy, propels the user forward. A high-sugar content option, which causes spikes and crashes, slows down the user, preventing him or her to collect more points.

“I loved it, it was amazing, and I got really into it,” 12th-grader Meagan Lee said at the event. “I’m going to tell my mom that we need to watch our sugar intake.”

Coral Gables High is one of 22 HealthCorp Living Labs high schools nationwide. Together, Atkins and HealthCorp revamped the school’s program curriculum to make it highly interactive, engaging students’ attention and educating them about the detrimental effects of hidden sugars, and how to make healthy snacking choices.

The updated curriculum features HealthCorps “Think Before You Drink” activity, which allows the students to establish healthy behaviors by testing their ability to recognize the sugar quantity in different soft drink choices. Also updated was the “Understanding Diabetes” curriculum that allows students to understand the long-term effects of a high sugar diet — which can lead to diabetes — and examines the different methods of prevention.

Jamie Desrameaux, a second-year HealthCorp coordinator, helps prepare teachers about the health curriculum. “The students are very receptive, they learn so much, not only because it is educational, but because it is engaging,” she said.

Desrameaux can attest to the influence the HealthCorps curriculum has had on the student body. The students and some staff are taking the knowledge learned in the classroom and applying it at home.

“Most of my students come from a Hispanic background, and they tell me how they convinced their parents to switch from white rice to brown rice or quinoa,” she said. “Matter of fact, we have a staff member that has lost over 100 pounds, so I know they are taking the knowledge back home.”

HealthCorp chose Coral Gables High to announce the Atkins partnership and unveil the Sugar Goggles initiative because of the students’ favorable reception to the curriculum, which has been operating four years. HealthCorp has given students, teachers and the community the opportunity to be more health conscious, Principal Adolfo Costa said.

“HealthCorp has allowed us to conduct health fairs on a yearly basis. Also, the pedometer challenge motivated students to be more active and compete against each other in a fun way,” he said.

Coral Gables Commissioner Vince Lagos attended the event and praised the work HealthCorp and Coral Gables High are doing. “I think it’s important that the students learn how to make healthy choices when it comes to food and drinks, because it pays dividends both short and long term, and can have a positive effect on the community,” he said.

HealthCorps was founded in 2003 by heart surgeon and Daytime Emmy-winning TV host Dr. Mehmet Oz and his wife, Lisa. HealthCorps’ mission is to equip America’s youth with the knowledge to make conscientious health choices and reduce the obesity rates for the next generation.

Atkins Nutritionals teaches people to learn a healthier way to eat. Atkins offers the tools and education to achieve balanced nutrition by reducing sugar and eating foods rich in protein, good fats, and nutrient-dense carbohydrates.

Atkins and HealthCorp will take Sugar Goggles to their other Living Labs high schools nationwide. Atkins is also developing a smartphone app version of the virtual reality game.

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