What are Your Smart Servings?

February 13, 2017

Too many apples

For this week’s recognition of American Heart Month, the Healthy Kids Challenge WOWS Newsletter points out that we are not being heart smart when we fall for “Portion Distortion.” Bigger servings can mean too much of everything – including calories, sugar and fat – all things that can impact heart health.

“More and less” is a simple concept that many Americans can use to develop healthier habits. Let’s look at the stats to see how to apply the concept.

Need for More
We know that physical activity and eating fruits and veggies are heart healthy habits. However, recent CDC and Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 quoted “stats” show that we haven’t been making the grade:

  • Half of the total U.S. population consumed less than 1 cup of fruit and less than 1.5 cups of vegetables daily.
  • 76% of the U.S. population did not meet fruit intake recommendations, and 87% did not meet vegetable intake recommendations.
  • 51% of adults 18 years of age and over do not meet Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic physical activity.
  • 79% of adults 18 years of age and over do not meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for both aerobic physical and muscle-strengthening activity.

Need for Less

  • In 2007-2010, Americans over-consumed added sugars and solid fats, which are high in calories.
  • Added sugars account on average for almost 270 calories, or more than 13 percent of calories per day in the U.S. population. Teens and men consume the most added sugars.
  • Solid fats consumed as part of foods or added to foods, account for more than 325 calories or more than 16 percent of calories per day, on average for the U.S. population, but provide few nutrients.

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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The CDC Healthy Schools Guideline 8 states “Provide a school employee wellness program that includes healthy eating and physical activity services for all school staff members.

The benefits of employee wellness programs are fairly well known. They can improve staff productivity, decrease employee absenteeism, and decrease employee health care costs.

While most schools are getting out the message about healthful eating and physical activity connected to healthy bodies and minds, the size and scope of full-fledged wellness programs vary widely. A sustainable comprehensive program requires the support of a wellness coordinator and/or strong wellness committee. In addition, success depends on staff motivation and participation. These things happen with good planning over time, making the case for schools without programs to start small and build momentum for a strong foundation.

HKC’s January 25th WOWS Newsletter has great suggestions for getting started and implementing new ideas in an existing program. If you are in the building momentum phase, be sure take time to reach out to the community, local health professionals and businesses for support.

Set the Stage for Wellness

January 9, 2017

Cute Hispanic elementary school student holding tray of cafeteria food

Studies show that children eat approximately one-third of their daily food intake while at school.

When students have the option, they are more likely to purchase foods and beverages that are high in calories, fats, and/or sugar. On the school campus these foods are called competitive foods because they compete with school meals. These options are frequently found in places such as vending machines, school stores, à la carte lines, class parties, and as fundraisers.

Setting the stage requires wellness policies with guides to meet standards for healthier choices. For the policies to be successful they also need widespread acceptance. From the people who implement the policy to those who are impacted by it, success has the greatest potential when the following actions are taken:

  1. Involve everyone in the process, including the creation and implementation of the policies. If you don’t have a Student Advisory Group (SAG), it can be very helpful to create one. SAG can conduct surveys with peers to obtain constructive feedback.
  2. Instead of “reinventing the wheel,” learn from the lessons learned by others. See the January 11th issue of the WOWS Newsletter for helpful resources.
  3. Through marketing and nutrition education, create an interest in wellness. The Healthy Kids Challenge Explore MyPlate With School Nutrition Guidebook is an easy-to-use guide with tips and tools for school nutrition services managers and wellness teams! Action ideas are designed to increase participation through marketing and promotion and help meet the HealthierUS School Challenge. Content includes MyPlate, trivia, bulletin boards, food science experiments to link with curriculum standards, menu planning tips, and fun ideas for youth advisory councils. The guidebook is designed for programs serving students in grades K-8.

How Much Do We Taste?

November 28, 2016

Multi Generation Family Celebrating With Christmas Meal

The holidays are often filled with once-a-year special smells and tastes. How much do we truly taste, enjoy and appreciate? How often do we leave a table feeling satisfied instead of uncomfortably full? As educators, parents, caretakers and others with links to kids (KidLinks), one of the best ways we can help kids build healthy habits is through mindful eating. Mindful eating is being aware of what we are eating…the taste and smell…the way it feels in our mouth…and if it is pleasantly taking away the hunger and making us feel comfortably full. In our fast-paced world, we lose sight of things like whether or not we really feel full and what we are enjoying.

Encourage kids and families to practice mindful eating during the holidays. Slowing down, turning off our “screens” and taking smart portions are the beginning of being in tune with what we are eating. Try this mindful eating experiment yourself. Get a small piece of soft chocolate that is at room temperature. Cut the chocolate in two. Hold your nose and put one piece of chocolate in your mouth. Determine the taste and feel of it. Now for the second piece of chocolate, release your nose and take some time to pay attention to the taste and feel of it. The look, smell, texture and temperature of foods all impact how we enjoy what we eat.

Small boy and his sister cooking in the kitchen

Let’s review what we know about the benefits of kids in the kitchen. It is a way to:

  • Start the conversation and help kids develop skills, like healthy meal planning, shopping, cooking and clean-up that last a lifetime.
  • Help them feel good about themselves; the delight and pride in making something themselves.
  • Become aware of what to look for on nutrition labels.
  • Learn about food safety.
  • Help them discover the appeal and taste of foods they prepare.

Beyond those great benefits, it is a way to build appeal for healthier choices. It is not hard to imagine how using elements similar to those in art can build appeal for healthier meals. Try the following and add it to your collection of healthier holiday foods.

Blueberry-Pineapple Parfaits

  • 1 can (20 ounces) pineapple chunks, drained
  • 1 container (8 ounces) fat-free lime-flavored yogurt
  • ¾ cup fresh blueberries
  • ¾ cup fresh strawberries, chopped
  • ½ cup granola

In a small bowl, combine the pineapple with half of the yogurt. In small parfait or juice glasses, alternately layer the pineapple-yogurt mixture, blueberries, strawberries and granola. Repeat the layering twice. Top each parfait with a spoonful of yogurt.

Teachable moments:

  • Compare ingredients in the recipe for taste, texture, and color.
  • Discuss how the taste and appearance would change by substituting plain for flavored yogurt.
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