School Caferteria Line

Preschools and daycare centers can help build a foundation for healthy eating and physical activity choices. In the most recent WOWS Newsletter, we shared the three actions that will help make a difference that lasts for a lifetime:

  1. Plan fun, hands-on learning activities
  2. Model and repeat the healthy message… play, taste and learn with kids
  3. Share the message with parents and caregivers

A 4th category of actions are “nudges.” We’ve used this term in our columns before. It is a word made popular by Cornell University’s Smarter Lunchrooms Movement.

Nudges are like the things retail marketers use to encourage consumers to buy. Good examples are retail store end caps or products placed by the checkout lanes. When it comes to kids’ places, consider these successful “nudges”:

  • A 2016 study reported in Pediatrics found that in school cafeterias with vinyl banners depicting vegetable superhero characters, more young children took vegetables from the salad bar.
  • Studies have also shown an increase in the selection of healthier foods when they are at eye level. In one example, preschoolers took cartons of lower fat milk when they were easier to reach than the higher fat choice.
  • Encouraging students to take fruits and veggies as they go through the line increases selections.
  • Giving fun menu names to fruits and veggies “nudges” healthier choices. So the next time you post a menu, have fun with creative names, like “Crunch a Bunch Salad,” “Rocket Carrots” or “To-My-Toes Tomatoes.” Better yet, help kids come up with silly names!

Make a Healthy Difference, Learn – Model – Share – and Nudge

The perfect entertainment snack

Whenever a change in the status quo is made, one of the first questions that come to mind is “Will making healthier substitutions cause us to lose customers or make money?”

According to a study published in the Journal of Public Health, an Iowa High School showed success is possible!

The school focused on adding just eight healthy options, including carrots, apples, a grilled chicken sandwich and string cheese. They also replaced regular nacho cheese sauce with a no trans fat variety and prepared popcorn with canola oil rather than coconut oil to make it trans fat free and lower in saturated fat. The results showed an income increase of 4 percent and, although student satisfaction was not affected, parental satisfaction increased. In addition, sales of the modified nachos and popcorn increased.

As reported in “Celebrating Healthy,” the Minnesota Department of Health found similar results.

After making changes for healthier foods, the Edina Aquatic Center increased profits by 12 percent between 2011 and 2012, the Richfield pool increased profits by 20 percent and the Dwan Golf Club decreased food costs by 6 percent!

These studies and others support the potential for the successful addition of healthier concession foods. Knowing of the success of these leading concession operations will make it easier for others to make healthier menu changes.

Children having picnic and eating strawberries in garden

Every day, there are a multitude of things that influence our eating choices. Too often, those influences trend toward over-consuming added sugars and unhealthy fats. The July 5th WOWS Newsletter activity guides kids in thinking about the influence of the healthy habits we value and practice, and how friends and the media can make a difference in the choices we make. By itself, just the availability of sugary and higher fat foods in so many settings (fast foods and at concession stands, parties and celebrations…list goes on) is an influence.

Among the influencers are television commercials and other media ads. Think of the really yummy-looking posters of foods you see in fast food restaurants. They are designed to make us want to choose them. It is helpful to recognize the impact these influences can have on you. Those influences become a problem when we bend to temptation and frequently over-consume. If we value and practice healthy habits such as having smaller, less frequent amounts of sugary and higher fat foods as a way to looking and feeling our best, it is easier to recognize the temptation and make choices to resist over-consuming.

As in the example above, recognizing influencers is a step toward healthy balance. It is also helpful to have a basic understanding of the results of the choices we make. An example is recognizing how much sugar is too much. There are two slightly different guidelines they we often see; one is from the American Heart Association (AHA) and the other is defined in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). Because the AHA recommendation is based on maximum amounts and the 2015 DGA recommendation depends on a percentage of daily calories, it can seem a little confusing. However, so many Americans are consuming much greater amounts than either of the recommendations, so using either guideline can help us curb our intake of sugar.

Do the “why’s (influencers) of eating choices” make a difference in your balance? You decide!

Drink Think Water

June 30, 2017

Young boy taking a break from riding his bike to rehydrate

When we have kids think about the things they regularly drink, it is pretty common for sports drinks to make the list. Yet for sports drinks (and even more so, energy drinks), we really need to think twice. Adults and kids mistakenly think that sports drinks are a healthier choice than soda. The fact is that sports drinks are another source of added sugar. The amount of added sugar varies by brand, but a 20 oz. bottle of some popular choices can add almost nine teaspoons of sugar.

A 2011 American Academy of Pediatrics report states that kids rarely need sports drinks. There may be some benefit during intense competition (usually lasting 60 minutes or more); however, sports drinks are not necessary for the casual athlete and should not be consumed on a regular basis.

Water accessibility is important for all kids and needs to keep up with demand. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics article “Water: How Much Do Kids Need?” explains that the appropriate amount depends on factors such as age, weight and gender. The article recommends that as a rule of thumb, to get enough water, a child or teen should drink at least six to eight cups per day and eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables every day. (Fruits and vegetables, with their high water content, add to the total day’s intake.) During games and competitive events, drinks should be available at all times and regular water breaks should be scheduled about every 15 or 20 minutes. The amount of water needed can vary depending on the child’s age, weight, intensity of the activity and weather conditions.

Energy drinks are in another category. Because of the large amount of caffeine, energy drinks pose a real health risk for kids and teens. The American Academy of Pediatrics emphasizes that kids should not consume energy drinks.

Make water easily accessible to kids. If taste is a barrier to making water the first choice, add a slice of lemon or one of the other sliced fruits suggested in this week’s Healthy Kids Challenge WOWS Newsletter.

Active Play Their Way

June 23, 2017

Multiracial group of friends walking at the beach

Help families recognize that if they are not getting minimum levels of physical activity each day, it is time to do something different. Kids need at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.

Youth leaders and educators can send healthy messages and lead by example:

  • Include fun summertime ideas in newsletters and on websites. Include information on opportunities in your community such as water splash parks, playgrounds and nature trails.
  • Create bulletin boards and talk about different activity ideas.
  • In summer programs, plan “brain breaks” during which kids “act out” different suggestions that help them “move more.” For example, make the motions and pretend to play badminton, volleyball, tennis, swimming (all the different strokes) and baseball.
  • Plan a scavenger hunt that keeps kids moving. This week’s WOWS Newsletter has several fun ideas.

fruits and vegetables background

It is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month and June 23rd is National Picnic Day! Plan a picnic menu to include fruit and veggie finger foods! Use the Picnic Checklist in the June 14th WOWS Newsletter, and then plan to add some of the following menu suggestions to your picnic basket.

Picnic Basket Fruit and Veggie Suggestions:

  • Make fruit kabobs, or for greater transporting ease, fill individual sandwich bags with colorful cubes of fruit.
  • Try the fun Kids Eat Right Chocolate Ladybugs Recipe. The only two ingredients are fresh whole strawberries and semi-sweet dark chocolate chips.
  • Build fruit sandwiches: Spread graham crackers with peanut butter and use sliced banana or apple as a filling.
  • Ants on a log: Spread celery with peanut butter and top with raisins or other dried fruit pieces.
  • Cucumber sandwiches: Cut the cucumber in “coins.” Spread one “coin” with hummus or low fat cream cheese and top with another “coin.” As an option add deli meat or low fat cheese.
  • Assorted veggie sticks: Zucchini, carrots, celery, pea pods and green-yellow-orange-and red peppers.

myplate_yellow_livetype copy

This week’s WOWS Newsletter guides educators or parents through an easy-to-prepare recipe. The recipe and suggested activities make a very good addition to this summer’s Healthy Me Journal.

In the newsletter, the learning exercise following the recipe points to a link in the ChooseMyPlate.gov website to help kids gain some understanding of recommended food group amounts. As ChooseMyPlate states, the key to healthy eating is choosing a variety of foods and beverages from each food group.

Visuals are helpful for learning. The MyPlate image is one visual that guides healthy choices. Everyday objects can also help kids visualize portion sizes. Collect and talk about the following items:

1 cup = a baseball                                                      3 oz. muffin or biscuit = a hockey puck

½ cup = a cupcake wrapper full                             3 oz. meat or chicken = a deck of cards

1 oz. (2 Tbsp) = a golf ball                                        2 Tbsp. peanut butter = a ping pong ball

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