CATCH Program for Early Childhood Health

We’ve been talking a lot lately about kids’ health and tips for more nutritious snacks and meals.  As parents, it’s sometimes an overwhelming and time consuming task to make sure your child is fed three healthy meals a day, especially when they may spend part of their day away from home at daycare or school.

Lately, some great resources have developed in community organizations, to help families create a healthy environment for their children, especially involving food and exercise.  In fact, a program like this has popped up right in our own backyard!  The CATCH Early Childhood Program is a curriculum that is being implemented in Jewish Community Center-run preschools throughout the country.  CATCH – Coordinated Approach to Child Health – programs all have one common goal: To create an environment where physical activity, health education, and healthy eating behaviors are valued and taught to children, staff, and parents.


Two JCC teachers — Amy Stevens and Rebecca Wolter-Gustafson — at our local JCC Brookline/Brighton are certified CATCH trainers. This location, along with other preschools run by the JCC of Greater Boston, were the first pilot schools to run this national program, which is now successfully spreading to other states and regions.

The purpose of CATCH is to instill healthy physical and food habits in kids and their families. “If you start teaching nutritious habits with young children, the patterns they develop will continue into adulthood.” If you would like your kids and family to get involved with JCC Early Learning Centers and the CATCH program, click here for more info!

Here are some examples of the CATCH program’s healthy Fall recipes to share with your kids and family:

Baked Pumpkin Seeds

  • Cut the top of the pumpkin off (stem included…and BE CAREFUL!)
  • Scoop out all the pumpkin “guts” (seeds and all)
  • Separate the seeds
  • Wash, drain, and dry the seeds with a paper towel
  • Toss the seeds with a little olive oil and sprinkle of salt
  • Place a single layer of seeds on a baking sheet, and bake at 350* for 12-15 minutes (stirring occasionally)


Pumpkin Smoothie

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin butter OR canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup crushed ice
  • 6 oz nonfat Greek yogurt (or plain would work too)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon (to taste)
  • 2 tsp packed brown sugar (or to taste)

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve with a straw.


Smashed Apples

Part jam, part apple sauce, this smashed apples recipe is a no-sugar-added way to sweeten your favorite foods. It keeps for two weeks, so mix a large batch, and use it generously.

Cook Time

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 1 hour 45 minutes


4 lbs. of apples

½ cup water


  1. Peel, core and slice apples. Place apples and water in a 4 or 5-quart heavy-bottom pan over medium heat. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, until very tender. Remove from heat. Mash apples with a potato masher or blend with an immersion blender. Return to heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 to 30 minutes until the jam thickens and most of the liquid has evaporated.
  2. Transfer to a covered container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.


Healthy Butternut Squash Fries Recipe

Prep time: 10 mins

Cook time: 40 mins

Total time: 50 mins

Serves: 4


  • 1 – 2 pound butternut squash
  • PAM Spray Olive Oil
  • Salt


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Peel and cut the squash into long, thin french fry shapes (roughly ⅓″ thick).
  • In a large bowl, spray and toss the squash with PAM, using your hands to evenly coat each one. Lay them on a wire rack set on top of a foil-lined baking sheet and salt them generously.
  • Bake for about 40 minutes, flipping halfway through for even crispness. Serve immediately with extra salt and ketchup.


Apple Cider Baked Chicken Recipe

Okay…so this recipe may take a little longer to make…but doesn’t it sound delicious and healthy?!


  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into eighths
  • 1 large lemon, sliced into thin rounds
  • 2 cups apple cider, homemade or storebought
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 6-8 chicken legs or thighs
  • 2 large apples, each sliced into eighths
  • 1 lb. small, red or Yukon Gold potatoes, halved


Place a gallon size heavy-duty zip-top bag into a large bowl. Place the onion and next 10 ingredients into the zip-top bag, combining well. Add the chicken to the marinade. Close the bag, place in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the chicken pieces in a large roasting pan skin-side up. Pour all of the marinade, including onions and lemons over and around the pieces. Tuck the apples and potatoes around the chicken. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring once halfway through to re-coat everything with the marinade.

Feel free to add some mushrooms, red peppers and/or other favorite vegetables to this!


Healthier/Low Calorie Apple Crisp

– 3 Medium Apples
– 2 Tbsp Baking Sugar
– 2 Tbsp Whole Wheat Flour
– 1/2 Tsp Lemon Juice
– 1 Tsp Ground Cinnamon

– 3/4 cups Old Fashioned Oats
– 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
– 1 1/2 Tbsp Reduced Calorie Margarine
– 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
– 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
– 1/4 Tsp Salt

1.) Pre-Heat oven to 350 degrees
2.) Cut off apple skins and chop into small bite size pieces

3.) Mix together chopped apples, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp flour, 1/2 tsp lemon juice, and 1 tsp ground cinnamon

4.) Spread apples into a 9-inch baking dish
5.) In a separate bowl, combine 3/4 cups old fashioned oats, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 1/2 tbsp margarine, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla, and and 1/4 tsp salt

6.) Bake for 30-45 minutes and Enjoy!









  1. It’s so important to teach healthy lifestyle choices early on. It’s great to see programs at the preschool level, since that’s probably the easiest age to train. ❤

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