Elementary Pupils Collecting Healthy Lunch In Cafeteria

Actions to Make a Healthy Difference Everywhere Kids Go

Plan demonstrations of how kids (and adults) can achieve healthy balance everywhere they live learn work and play. This month’s HKC Newsletter, Wednesday WOWS, focuses on interactive demonstration activities connected to:

  • School happenings (National School Lunch Week)
  • Holiday celebrations (Halloween/Fall Festivals)
  • Health fairs
  • The classroom

And the activity ideas can be used for many different places and age groups. They have been used anywhere from libraries to zoos and for pre-school to seniors. For a staff wellness meeting, try this interactive healthy goal setting activity:

Make up puzzles with a healthy message such as “Enjoy a Walk,” “Choose a Variety of Fruit and Veggie Colors,” and “Make Smart Serving Choices.” Create one puzzle for every 4-6 people, each with a different color background to make putting the puzzle together easier. When each person comes into the room, they choose one puzzle piece. At a designated time, have participants find like colors and put their puzzle pieces together to identify the message. If time permits, have each puzzle “group” talk about the message and how they could incorporate it into their day (this activity idea is from the HKC Wellness Solutions Toolkit).

If you are on a school organization group’s wellness council, find ways to role model and include these types of activity in your yearly plans.

Mother and daughter buying fruit together

The American Heart Association recently released recommendations for daily levels of added sugar. The guideline for kids and adolescents is 25 grams, or around 6 teaspoons, daily. For most kids that is a significant, yet worthy, change in their current intake. For perspective, one 12-oz. can of soda has about 10 tsp. of added sugar. A sugar added cereal could have 2-3 tsp. in just ¾ cup.

We all know that all of the holidays at this time of the year, starting with Halloween (or Fall Harvest) celebrations, traditionally run heavy on sweets. Now is a very good time to add options for healthy balance. It is possible to have plenty of fun with activities that keep kids moving and treats with less sugar. Keep in mind that it is all about healthy balance. Celebrations may push the sugar limit a little more than other days of the week, but it doesn’t have to be the traditional sugar overload. Make a change and make a healthy difference!

This week’s Wednesday WOWS Newsletter contains Parent Tips to add healthy balance. Check them out. If you are thinking of using any of the ideas for school parties, refer to your kid’s school wellness policies first.

Group Of Teenage Friends Running In Park

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recently announced new guidelines for pediatricians and parents to help teens avoid both the development of eating disorders and obesity. AAP’s recommendations include discouraging dieting, skipping meals and the use of diet pills. Instead, experts recommend promoting a positive body image by promoting a balanced diet and exercising for fitness rather than weight loss; encouraging more frequent family meals; and avoiding talking about weight all together.

Although it is something we already know, it seems that for many of us, healthy balance isn’t easily achieved. Physical activity is sometimes perceived as something that isn’t fun and healthy eating is often thought to be boring or not as tasty, and perceptions are hard to shake. So to make a change, we need to start by changing those perceptions. This month’s Healthy Kids Challenge WOWS Newsletters and blogs will focus on developing appeal for healthy balance. It starts with positive messages and role-modeling and extends to demonstrating options everywhere kids go and finally, helping students and families set goals for practicing healthy habits.

Whenever possible, Healthy Kids Challenge demonstrates how to make the connection between healthy eating and physical activity for healthy balance. In the first October newsletter, suggestions are made to use role-modeling…connecting athletes and coaches to nutrition education.

Kindergarten children eating lunch

The only way to find out what kids think about school meal needs is to ask them! Whether you develop input through student-led “Nutrition Advisory Councils (NACs)” or with a series of activities, developing interaction can be highly successful.

Kids can help lead healthy change through peer nutrition education, promoting the school meal program and helping to create a healthier environment. The following activities help promote input:

  • Taste test new menu items. With a classroom teacher, arrange to give small samples and initiate a brief “Taste and Learn” discussion about how the item fits into school meal requirements.
  • Have kids brainstorm or respond to marketing ideas. For example, what do they think about promoting the cafeteria with a contest to give it a school name?
  • Ask about their ideas for healthy fundraising and how they can encourage school organizations to sponsor healthy fundraising options.
  • Ask students to develop a monthly bulletin board. Use it as an opportunity to have a health professional (registered dietitian) talk and provide resources about reliable vs. unreliable nutrition information. MyPlate.gov is a good “go to” for reliable information.
  • Conduct a “behind the scenes” school kitchen tour. Provide a demonstration on a topic of interest. For example, talk about why portion sizes matter in nutrition standards. Show the tools used to ensure that portion sizes are appropriate.


Schools participating in the HealthierUS School Challenge: Smarter Lunchrooms Initiative are working towards helping kids make healthy eating choices a habit. A smarter lunchroom is one that nudges kids towards nutritious foods.

Solutions for creating Smarter Lunchrooms are low cost/no-cost and easily implemented, such as:

  • Creating an appealing lunchroom environment
  • Promoting healthful eating behaviors
  • Sustaining the positive changes made

Best practices and lunchroom solutions that the Smarter Lunchrooms Initiative endorses have been studied and proven effective in a wide variety of schools across the nation. Examples include:

Studies have also shown that:

Over 30 million children are fed by the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Smarter Lunchrooms are making a healthy difference!

Nursery School Children Having Lunch

Across the country, getting parents on board with healthy changes at school is a frequent question at our workshops. Here a few examples:

  • Invite parents to have school breakfast or lunch with their child.
  • Find “health champions” who have an interest in learning about healthy school environments and will be advocates.
  • Spread the word about the connection between healthy eating & physical activity and academics. In print and in discussions, enhance awareness of studies that show kids who make healthy eating and activity choices perform better in school than those who do not.
  • Make school wellness happenings Talk with parents during parent-teacher conferences and at school events. Create signs, door banners, bulletin boards and classroom artwork to spread healthy messaging.
  • Provide healthy tips in newsletters and on websites for parents to use at home.
  • Invite parents to attend school wellness council meetings and let them know their thoughts do matter.
  • Provide health topics homework that supports parent-child discussion.

Young boy and girl enjoying their breakfast before school

Is there a better time for a breakfast campaign than the start of the new school year? Kick off the year for academic success! From studies, we know that kids who eat breakfast have better concentration and more energy. In fact, eating breakfast can help improve math, reading, and standardized test scores!

If you are an educator or youth leader:

  • Help kids hear the message that breakfast is a daily habit that gives GO Power for more energy and better concentration, making school easier!
  • Choose interactive lessons that let kids see that breakfast foods can be fun and tasty!
  • Plan activities that let them do, such as Healthy Kids Challenge Taste and Learn Lessons that give the option of preparing and tasting a breakfast recipe.

If you are a parent:

  • Learn more about actions in your school district to support the connection between breakfast and increased potential for academic success.
  • For home, take time with your children to make a list of healthy breakfast ideas. If breakfast is frequently skipped, talk about why. Discuss how to make breakfast a daily habit.
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