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!

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.

bike_month_web

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.

AASL_SLM2017

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.

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.
%d bloggers like this: