What You Do and How You Do It

September 11, 2017

Stack of white paper plates on white surface

Hands-on learning is a strategy used to increase the effectiveness of nutrition education. It often takes a little creativity to come up with activities that don’t require a lot of extra consumable resources. The Healthy Kids Challenge Balance My Day Nutrition Education Curriculum has strived to meet the challenge. Each curriculum activity includes, if needed, a supply list. Overall, curriculum resource needs are very minimal. Because there are so many wonderful learning activities that can be done with MyPlate, we recommend a good supply of very inexpensive paper plates.

Here are some examples of a few different, age-appropriate activities using paper plates:

  1. Have kids recreate a Choose MyPlate image to use as artwork and for other learning activities.
  2. Focus on fruits and vegetables. MyPlate recommends a goal of making half your plate fruits and vegetables. Ask kids to first draw a line to divide their plate in half; and then in the appropriate spaces, draw the image of the fruit(s) and vegetable(s) they had for their previous meal. Talk about whether or not what they ate met the MyPlate goal.
  3. Hold up an image of a food and ask kids to draw it in the appropriate food group.
  4. Ask kids to draw a plate with images of foods, placed in the appropriate food groups that they would eat for breakfast (or lunch/dinner).
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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.

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.

Healthy Taste Appeal

May 22, 2017

asparagus-2169232_640

Create appeal for healthy foods by pleasing the senses with its appearance, smell, texture and mouth-feel. These are the sensations that create taste and enjoyment.

A meal of cold turkey slices, white bread, pears and vanilla pudding has little appeal. All the foods are white, soft, cold and fairly bland. A meal with variety of colors, flavors, textures and temperature increases enjoyment. Substitute strawberries and green grapes for the pear. And heat turkey slices with low fat cheese, sautéed green peppers and onion on a whole grain bun.

A variety of tastes, such as salty and sweet and spicy and bland, as well as strong flavors and light flavors are all factors in creating appeal. When it comes to texture, variety counts here too. A variety of crunchy and smooth, soft and firm makes a difference.

Experiment with the factors that add healthy appeal

Add a “bit” of veggie for crunch and/or color:

  1. Sprinkle grated carrots on sandwiches with lettuce & tomato.
  2. Add extra chopped veggies to a frozen pizza before baking, or to canned soup before heating.

Create appeal with a creative “twist” to the usual:

  1. Instead of a bowl of juice packed peaches, try topping ½ cup unsweetened, canned peaches with a sprinkle of cinnamon and 2 Tbsp. crushed graham cracker crumbs; heat in the microwave until warm.
  2. Instead of a plain graham cracker, try spreading a graham cracker with low fat cream cheese (or peanut butter) and topping with a banana slice.
  3. Instead of juice packed crushed pineapple, try mixing ½ cup of juice packed crushed pineapple with ½ cup frozen berries or ¼ cup dried fruit.
  4. Instead of waffles and syrup, try topping whole wheat toaster waffles with a tablespoon of peanut butter and banana, strawberry and kiwi slices.

Use these and other ideas to add to the Healthy Me summertime journal.

Friends in summer

Teachers, youth leaders and teams find HKC wellness approaches and action ideas effective and easy to use. They report that the HKC tools provide great new strategies for teaching core curriculum. One of the successful strategies is repetition of healthy habit messages using the Healthy6.

Six healthy eat, move and enjoy balance life step goals relate to eating and physical activity components identified by the Centers for Disease Control and National Health Education Standards. Hands-on lessons develop positive attitudes and practical skills for healthy choices.

The creation of a summertime journal, as discussed in this month’s newsletters and blogs, incorporates a number of hands-on lessons and personalizes learning. As kids work on the journal, they are helped to understand that healthy habits don’t just happen. They are the result of practicing…another way of saying it is “be the change you want to see” until it becomes a habit.

Goal setting and “challenges” to motivate and measure progress is one way to personalize learning. For example:

  • First, determine how many fruits and vegetables you are eating each day and how that compares to a healthy intake (see ChooseMyPlate.gov for recommendations). Then, create a fruits and vegetables goal towards a healthy intake. Such as, eat one more fruit or vegetable each day. Then set a “challenge” to achieve that goal every day for the next week. On a calendar, record the number of fruits and/or vegetables eaten each day. For each day the goal was reached, place a star on the calendar.
  • Use the same plan to set a goal and a “challenge” for more minutes of physical activity in the day.

Homemade yogurt ice popsicles with fresh kiwi

Developing healthy eating and physical activity habits that last a lifetime does not require that a parent or teacher become a “monitor.” In fact, doing the opposite creates the most success. With activities like the summer journaling that is discussed in the May 10th WOWS Newsletter, kids can have so much fun they will not think about all they are learning.

  • Try new healthy snack recipes. Suggest they write the recipe in their journal. After tasting the recipe, have them rate with an image of their choosing, such as 5 stars (or apples) for the best. If the recipe doesn’t make the 5 star rating, talk about what they liked or didn’t like about it.
  • Have kids create their own recipe. Have them write measures and directions for preparing the recipe. Suggest ingredients; fruits are always a healthy bet. Other suggested ingredients to accompany the fruits might include low fat pudding (or yogurt), fat free cream cheese, dry cereal and a graham cracker.
  • Come up with active play ideas to keep them moving. Calculate the number of minutes they will add to the day – week – and month.
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