UPDATE: According to a news release from the Washington Apple Commission, the proportion of overweight U.S. children has increased more than 50 percent in the past two decades. In fact, 10 to 40 percent are overweight, and 50 to 85 percent will remain so as adults. Somehow, the kids have missed the fitness and healthy eating movement that has been so meaningful for many adults.

Because of this problem, the commission has sponsored a program called Healthy Choices for Kids. Endorsed by the National Education Association, this hands-on educational supplement helps teachers and parents teach kids about important nutritional choices. It is "hands-on" because kids are asked to fill out a five-day food diary and go over their choices of food with their parents. "The health of our children has reached a critical point, yet adults can't teach kids good nutrition if they don't understand it themselves," said Joan Walsh, registered dietitian, who reviewed the program.The program will be mailed free to 20,000 teachers in 20 U.S. cities by March, National Nutrition Month. In addition, parents and teachers can write to request their own kits. To request a kit, write to: Healthy Choices Education Supplement, P.O. Box 550, Wenatchee, WA 98807.

QUESTION: I have heard that some calcium supplements are difficult if not impossible to digest and therefore have little value in terms of providing calcium for prevention of osteoporosis. Would you comment on this? Thank you.

ANSWER: I saw a discussion of this problem in a publication called "Calcium Communique," published by the Marion Dow Corp. In this article, Dr. Ralph Shangraw of the University of Maryland described an easy home test for calcium supplements to see if they would disintegrate in the acid environment of the stomach. Simply drop a single calcium tablet into 6 ounces of a 75 percent water and 25 percent vinegar solution and stir it occasionally. After 30 minutes, a high-quality supplement should break up and be 75 percent dissolved. While disintegration of the tablet does not assure absorption, a tablet that fails to dissolve would have little chance of being absorbed.


- Exercise. Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise is really enough to bring about healthful changes. You could increase by 5 minutes if you would like more exercise time. Maintain abdominal curls at about 25. Keep doing 10 modified pushups.

Add a new exercise, the partial squat, using body weight only. Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart by a chair or some other object that can be used for balance, and lower your body down a foot or so by bending your knees. Be sure to keep your back straight and in an upright position. Do 10 repetitions.

- Diet. Our consultant dietitian, Barbara Higa, suggests that you now increase your vegetable intake so that you eat 2 to 4 cups a day. Interestingly, this same recommendation has been made by a friend who works as a professional weight-loss counselor when she finds a person who has a difficult time losing weight. Cook the vegetables lightly and enjoy.