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

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!

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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

Group of happy kids running through green field

We enjoy healthy balance with tasty and smart food choices paired with Active Play, Every Day. Move with fun summertime activities, like the ones below! For more summertime “balancing moves,” see the May 31st Healthy Kids Challenge WOWS Newsletter.

Create a fun fitness course:

  1. Place two buckets several steps apart. Fill one with water and keep the other empty. Give kids a plastic cup and have them, using the cup, race to see who can transfer water from the full bucket to the empty one first.
  2. Set up a bean bag toss with hula hoops. Place three hula hoops on the ground in the shape of a triangle. Have kids try to get a bean bag within the circle of all three hoops.
  3. Run a “Ball and Glove Relay.”
    • Supplies: gallon milk jugs, with the bottoms cut off (to use like ball gloves) and tennis balls.
    • Divide kids into teams, and give each team one milk jug “ball glove” and one tennis ball.
    • Have each team line up and explain the relay:
      • The first person in line is the catcher and holds the milk jug. He stands a few feet from the rest of the kids on his team. (The distance from the pitcher to the catcher depends on the age of the child.)
      • The second kid in line on that team is the pitcher and tosses the ball underhanded to the kid with the milk jug.
      • When the ball is caught (they should try again if they miss!), the pitcher moves to become the catcher, the catcher moves to the end of the line and the game continues until everyone has had a turn. If teams are small, do two or three turns.

Note: Instead of declaring winners or losers, have game leaders time each team; then have the teams do the relay again and see if they can improve their time. Encourage teams to create a team name and cheer.

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With planning, activities and support for healthy eating and physical activity habits can easily be included in summer school, youth programs or at home. One helpful planning tool is discussed in Week 1 of the May WOWS Newsletter. It is a checklist of content for kids to create a journal, with resources that can help motivate success.

Motivating kids, removing the roadblocks to set them up for success and helping to build skills for healthier choices doesn’t have to take a lot of resources or require a lot of time. It does, however, take care and persistence.

Join us this month in helping kids to Eat – Move – Enjoy.

  • Enjoy healthful, tasty and appealing eating choices.
  • Enjoy moving more.
  • Enjoy healthy balance.

American Heart Month

February 6, 2017

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February is American Heart Month. The HKC Newsletter, WOWS, has been recognizing the significance of the month by connecting awareness building ideas with mini lessons to build habits for healthy hearts. HKC’s Healthy6 are the cornerstone for both our comprehensive nutrition education, Balance My Day, and the mini lesson suggestions found here.

Snack Attack “Mini Lesson”

  • Talking Points:

According to the American Heart Association, choosing less added sugar helps keep a heart healthy. Many of us are choosing much more added sugar than recommended. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans identify Food Category Sources of Added Sugars in the U.S. Population Ages 2 Years and Older as 31% coming from snacks and sweets and 47% from beverages. Limit added sugar to less than 10% of calories. (Calorie needs differ by age, gender and activity level. Choose MyPlate Checklist describes calorie needs for different age groups.)

  • Activity:

Collect and review Nutrition Facts Labels of foods that contain added sugar such as candy, cakes, cookies, fruit drinks, and soft drinks. Determine the added sugar content per serving. For visual impact, use sugar cubes or teaspoons of sugar to represent the amount of sugar in one serving. (1 sugar cube = 1 teaspoon = 4 grams)

Hearts Take the Stage

January 30, 2017

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With both Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month in February, hearts take a center stage. Heart disease is the nation’s No. 1 killer of both men and women, but recently Americans are showing improvement. Recognized theme months like this provide a great opportunity to create awareness and educate kids and families about important health issues.

Give artwork a “healthy twist” with messages that help inspire healthy balanced choices.

To enhance a nutrition curriculum, or start the practice of incorporating nutrition education into the classroom, plan opportunities for “mini lessons.” This week and next, HKC’s WOWS Newsletter has ideas to get you started. As another option, the HKC Balance My Day Curriculum is flexible for use as a comprehensive curriculum or as a series of mini lessons. The curriculum can also now be purchased as digital access only or in print + digital form.

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