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Instilling healthy nutritional habits in children is vital in the ongoing struggle to deal with America’s obesity problem.

This is why the recent News report by Joseph Popiolkowski on efforts by some schools to replace sugary snacks with healthy treats should be replicated around the region, the state and the country.

It means Highland Elementary School’s 350 students no longer celebrate birthdays with cupcakes. That’s OK. Try a tasty piece a fruit, instead.

Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda school officials have nutritional standards for food and beverages served at celebrations. They must meet nutritional standards set by the district’s wellness policy. Frontier Central School District has lists of acceptable snacks determined by teachers on a class-by-class basis, based on food allergies.

These are necessary healthy educational building blocks, especially for Lake Shore elementary students, whom Highland Principal Christopher Walsh said were the most overweight elementary students in Western New York.

Childhood obesity is a crisis in America. One in three children is obese or overweight, according to first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative. Increased cases of Type 2 juvenile diabetes are being discovered in children and teens, especially in those who are overweight. What used to be referred to as “adult onset diabetes” because the condition occurred in later life is now being seen by doctors in children.

Cutting out cupcakes is a start, but more is necessary. Just as with adults grappling with habits related to obesity, it is important for children and teens to exercise and follow healthy diets. That may be a difficult sell to young people these days because they tend to exercise infrequently compared to earlier generations, and they get distracted by video games and television. Even moderate exercise coupled with healthy food choices can make a world of difference.

Researchers have noted an encouraging slight drop in childhood obesity in big cities like New York and Los Angeles, in addition to smaller areas such as Anchorage, Alaska and Kearney, Neb., first reported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in September. But the reason remains somewhat of a mystery other than that researchers note the change in cities with obesity reduction policies in place for a number of years.

The importance of teaching children healthy habits cannot be overstated. It is one of the major tools in the fight against obesity and related, avoidable chronic conditions. Highland Elementary is on the right track.