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For National Bike Month, The League of American Bicyclists suggests you “Get Things Rolling in Your Community.” It is also a good time to “get things rolling” for the other part of healthy balance, which is healthy eating choices. Connect physical activity and healthful eating choices for health and well-being.

In the Healthy Kids Challenge WOWS Newsletter, find a classroom nutrition activity idea. On the community level, there are ways you can help to set kids up for success. How many ways can you think of now? Everywhere we live, learn, work and play, we make eating choices.

One way you can make a difference is at the concession stand. In the summertime, concession stands at ballparks, the local swimming pool and other “hangouts” for kids become significant sources for snacks. Contact administrators and volunteer to help brainstorm healthy snack suggestions to add to the concession menu. Consider bottled water, 100% juice boxes, low fat yogurt containers, low fat cheese sticks, fresh fruit, whole grain cracker packets or juice popsicles.

When asked to add healthier items, one of the first questions concessions operators raise is “If we make a change, will we lose sales?” The answer is that many concessions operators have had good success by adding healthier options.

Unplug with Active Play

April 17, 2017

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May 1-7 is Screen-Free Week, a time to unplug and connect, learn and play. It is a great time to set goals for replacing some of the screen time with Active Play. Help make it easier for kids to have Active Play, Every Day by setting them up for success with these ideas:

  1. Similar to a recipe file, create an activity file. Write the name and description of an activity and the supplies or equipment needed. When kids are bored they can “draw” a card out of the file and enjoy some Active Play.
  2. Create “Active Play Kits” or tubs of supplies. As a family, give the kits as birthday or holiday gifts. As an organization, put kits together for fundraising raffles. Here are some ideas to inspire your creativity:
    • Dancing scarves with music DVDs: Suggest different movements like “up high” or “down low.”
    • Obstacle course supplies: Create a course with plastic cones, Hula Hoops, a pop-up tunnel and noodles (used as hurdles).
    • Soccer ball and cones: Create a drill course with plastic cones and one or more age-appropriate soccer balls.
    • Giant foam dice and activity cards: Create cards with physical activity instructions for each number rolled, i.e. roll a 4 = do 4 jumping jacks.
    • Lawn games: For example, Bocce ball, badminton and bean bag toss.
    • Miscellaneous active play equipment: Jump ropes, sidewalk chalk, bubbles and Frisbees.

April Digging

April 10, 2017

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April is National Garden Month. Don’t miss the April 12th WOWS Newsletter, in which we share a lesson about cucurbits! At home, school, or during a summer program, gardening is a great way to get kids interested in and learn more about fruits and vegetables. Through gardening, you can apply nutrition lessons and apply math, science, writing and other concepts.

Consider growing a “theme” garden such as:

  • A “pizza” garden with green pepper, onion, tomato, basil and oregano.
  • A “salad” garden with tomato, cucumber, lettuce and carrots.
  • A “salsa” garden with tomato, cilantro, garlic and peppers.
  • A “snack” garden with broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini and cucumbers.

If it isn’t feasible to grow vegetables (and we hope you can at least grow several in a container), visit a farmer’s market and gather vegetables to fit your theme!

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Have you heard that April is designated School Library Month by the American Association of School Librarians? It is a time to recognize and celebrate all the ways school librarians can transform learning and, yes, even encourage healthful food and physical activity choices. At school or at home, reading to or with younger children can increase self-esteem, communication and listening skills, positive attitudes, a joy of reading and more. Learn more by checking out the April 5th issue of our WOWS Newsletter.

Grab chances to read books that open discussion about healthful food and physical activity choices. Think about the everyday ways, and perhaps a few unusual ways, you can do that. Start with the following thought to get your creative ideas flowing:

For a school or home birthday celebration: Instead of sugar overloaded “treats,” treat kids to a book reading during which they can act out the characters’ movements. Serve a fruit rainbow in a cup or plain ice cream cone. Top the rainbow with a spoonful of low fat pudding or yogurt.

Start with Small Changes

March 27, 2017

Happy family having roast chicken dinner at table

The aim of the 2017 National Nutrition Month® is to inspire everyone to start with small changes toward a healthful eating style – one forkful at a time. Choosing healthier food options is important; however, to make sure the choices become a healthy habit, it is also important to recognize other factors that cause less healthful eating.

The CDC has identified habits that may be leading some of us to overeat. Below, look at and highlight the common the eating habits that may be leading you to overeat and to weight gain.

  • Eating too fast
  • Always cleaning your plate
  • Eating when not hungry
  • Eating while standing up (may lead to eating mindlessly or too quickly)
  • Always eating dessert
  • Skipping meals (or maybe just breakfast)

The next step is finding the small changes that work for us. The CDC’s Improving Your Eating Habits suggestions include:

  • Turning off the TV – It is too easy to get distracted which results in overeating and missing out on enjoying each bite of food.
  • Supporting family members – It is easier if family members join in and encourage progress towards healthier habits.
  • Eating slowly – When eating too fast, it is hard to tell when hunger stops and feeling full begins.
  • Out of the package and on to the plate – Studies show we eat much more when snacking out of a multi-serving bag or a box.
  • Set times for snacks – There is nothing wrong with a planned healthy snack. Without set snack times, there is a tendency to eat when bored.

Student reaching for healthy food in school cafeteria

Schools are working to improve appeal for healthier food choices.

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service published a great tool to help schools rejuvenate cafeterias with colorful fruits and vegetables. The toolkit, Fruits & Vegetables Galore: Helping Kids Eat More, provides excellent downloadable resources.

Tips start with creating a plan, getting “buy in” and taking the lead to address a national health problem. There is a whole resource devoted to creating meal appeal.

Other resources provide:

  • Detail for setting up salad bars, prepared salads
  • Marketing and training
  • Developing quality food service

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It has been reported that eating more fruits and vegetables may boost psychological well-being. New research now shows there can be a boost in motivation and vitality in as little as two weeks. That news provides an even greater incentive to include fruit and vegetable intake among the small changes to which we are aspiring during National Nutrition Month®.

Teachers and youth leaders are daily role models for kids. The personal changes made related to healthy eating habits can provide a positive influence in ways you may have not even considered! With these fun and positive employee wellness suggestions, start with fruits and veggies to enhance or develop healthy modeling at your school or program.

  • Place simple fruit and vegetable messages in the staff room and hallways.
  • Take photos of staff with their favorite fruit or vegetable and post. Encourage staff to share how they like to eat it and if there is a favorite recipe of theirs.
  • Have staff share ideas to add more fruits and vegetables to their day. Such as:
    • adding fruit to dry or cooked cereal
    • putting extra vegetables in soups or casseroles or on pizza
    • adding fresh fruits to yogurt
    • making a fruit or vegetable a part of a snack

For the amount of fruits and vegetables recommended for adults each day, refer to MyPlate Daily Checklist. Recommendations vary according to daily calorie needs. For many adults that is around 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables each day.

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