Healthy body healthy mind

The “secrets” of healthy eating include variety, moderation and balance. A consistent, repeated message is one key to learning. A daily, or even weekly, message targeted not just to knowledge, but also attitude and healthy behavior, is the aim. In the classroom, plan 5-10 minute nutrition education or physical activity brain breaks. It doesn’t have to be complex:

Nutrition Ed

  • Discuss how MyPlate shows us how to choose a variety of foods from different food groups.
  • Talk about moderation. What is it and how do we choose it? Point out how MyPlate gives us serving sizes for the foods we eat and also recommends the number of servings we should eat for our age, gender and how active we are.
  • Talk about how eating a healthy breakfast can make school easier. Breakfast provides morning “Go Power.”

Brain Breaks

  • Talk about how moving more balances “energy in” from the foods we eat with “energy out” for a healthy heart and weight. While moving, ask kids to call out their favorite choices for active play.
  • Between lessons, have kids do jumping jacks, jog in place or act out sports like swimming, tennis or basketball.
  • Play five minutes of “musical desks.”

If time is limited to implement a full comprehensive nutrition education curriculum, do something else. There are many “One-a-Day” ideas to help fill a gap. Contact Healthy Kids Challenge for more ideas. The Healthy Kids Challenge Balance My Day™ curriculum is full of discussion points, hands-on activities and worksheets.

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Kindergarten children eating lunch

The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) resource HEALTH AND ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT makes it clear that healthy eating and physical activity are linked to academic achievement. This means it is very much worth ensuring that we take the time to make it the most effective.

The Healthy Kids Challenge curriculum foundation has set the stage with learning theories and evidence based content for the greatest success. The content is built on the foundation of six healthy habit messages: daily physical activity and choosing breakfast, fruits and vegetables, healthy snacks, right-size portions, and healthy beverages. The curriculum meets standards recommended by the CDC HECAT (Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool). Hands-on learning activities are designed to build skills for making healthy choices. The following appealing messages are repeated in different ways:

  • Active Play, Balance My Day
  • Breakfast GO Power
  • Drink Think
  • Fruits & Veggies – Every Day the Tasty Way
  • Smart Servings
  • Snack Attack

Along with building skills for making healthy choices, we help educators set kids up for success by creating settings that support healthier choices. For some time, research has supported healthier environments. The USDA Local School Wellness Policy requirements are one way healthier environments are supporting kids.

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

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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.

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