Crystal Palace footballers have launched a competition for youngsters challenging them to design a recipe for a healthy smoothie and win a chance to try it out on players.

First team players Patrick van Aanholt and Wayne Hennessey joined Palace Ladies’ Pam McRoberts and Natasha Ogbe to front the Palace for Life Foundation’s ‘Healthy Eagles’ campaign to tackle rising childhood obesity in the area.

Palace keeper Wayne Hennessey said: “It is really good to be involved and help teach children about the importance of eating well and staying active.

“As players, it’s vital we understand how to fuel our bodies in the right way so we can perform at our best on the pitch and recover quickly from injuries. If we’re able to pass that on to children then that’s a great thing.”

Almost 38 per cent of children in their final year of primary school in Croydon are overweight or obese and the Foundation, with support from Croydon Council, is working with young people and their families on a range of programmes in schools and the community.

Children aged 7-11 who send the most innovative smoothie recipe ideas to the Foundation could win the opportunity to work with Palace chefs and make their smoothies for players at the training ground.

Left wing back Patrick van Aanholt added: “As a father, I know how important it is to make sure children are eating and drinking the right things from a young age.

“I hope that we can be positive role models to these kids and encourage them to make healthier choices when it comes to their food and drink.”

Head of Sports Medicine at Crystal Palace and prominent anti-obesity campaigner Dr Zaf Iqbal is backing Healthy Eagles and thinks a connection with players is key.

He said: “I am committed to encouraging players to eat the right things and remind them of the benefits that has to their training and recovery.

“I hope that they are able to pass that advice on to children in the communities around Crystal Palace, who we know look up to them.

“The important thing to remember is that eating well is only half of the picture, and keeping active is crucial too – all children should be doing one hour of exercise each day.”

Palace Ladies FC player Pam McRoberts said: “Having a young son, I always try to make him understand why he needs the right foods, the importance of drinking plenty of water and why having too much sugar is bad for him. This can be challenging as he loves sweets, but I try to involve him in making meals as much as possible.

“I hope the smoothie challenge gets kids talking and they have fun learning about different ingredients that they could start trying at home.”

Palace for Life Foundation Chief Executive Mike Summers added: “The Foundation has been working with the South London community for over 25 years and we are committed to providing opportunities to help change the lives of young people in the area.

“We recognise the complexities of dealing with childhood obesity and our approach is wide-ranging, with our smoothie challenge simply an engaging way of reaching the children.

“We are delivering health education sessions, providing free opportunities to take part in exercise, hosting cooking sessions and running intensive workshops for the children most in need.

“Working closely with Palace players and Dr Zaf, we hope that children and their families will join us so we can address this issue as a community.”

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