Start with Small Changes

March 27, 2017

Happy family having roast chicken dinner at table

The aim of the 2017 National Nutrition Month® is to inspire everyone to start with small changes toward a healthful eating style – one forkful at a time. Choosing healthier food options is important; however, to make sure the choices become a healthy habit, it is also important to recognize other factors that cause less healthful eating.

The CDC has identified habits that may be leading some of us to overeat. Below, look at and highlight the common the eating habits that may be leading you to overeat and to weight gain.

  • Eating too fast
  • Always cleaning your plate
  • Eating when not hungry
  • Eating while standing up (may lead to eating mindlessly or too quickly)
  • Always eating dessert
  • Skipping meals (or maybe just breakfast)

The next step is finding the small changes that work for us. The CDC’s Improving Your Eating Habits suggestions include:

  • Turning off the TV – It is too easy to get distracted which results in overeating and missing out on enjoying each bite of food.
  • Supporting family members – It is easier if family members join in and encourage progress towards healthier habits.
  • Eating slowly – When eating too fast, it is hard to tell when hunger stops and feeling full begins.
  • Out of the package and on to the plate – Studies show we eat much more when snacking out of a multi-serving bag or a box.
  • Set times for snacks – There is nothing wrong with a planned healthy snack. Without set snack times, there is a tendency to eat when bored.

Student reaching for healthy food in school cafeteria

Schools are working to improve appeal for healthier food choices.

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service published a great tool to help schools rejuvenate cafeterias with colorful fruits and vegetables. The toolkit, Fruits & Vegetables Galore: Helping Kids Eat More, provides excellent downloadable resources.

Tips start with creating a plan, getting “buy in” and taking the lead to address a national health problem. There is a whole resource devoted to creating meal appeal.

Other resources provide:

  • Detail for setting up salad bars, prepared salads
  • Marketing and training
  • Developing quality food service


It has been reported that eating more fruits and vegetables may boost psychological well-being. New research now shows there can be a boost in motivation and vitality in as little as two weeks. That news provides an even greater incentive to include fruit and vegetable intake among the small changes to which we are aspiring during National Nutrition Month®.

Teachers and youth leaders are daily role models for kids. The personal changes made related to healthy eating habits can provide a positive influence in ways you may have not even considered! With these fun and positive employee wellness suggestions, start with fruits and veggies to enhance or develop healthy modeling at your school or program.

  • Place simple fruit and vegetable messages in the staff room and hallways.
  • Take photos of staff with their favorite fruit or vegetable and post. Encourage staff to share how they like to eat it and if there is a favorite recipe of theirs.
  • Have staff share ideas to add more fruits and vegetables to their day. Such as:
    • adding fruit to dry or cooked cereal
    • putting extra vegetables in soups or casseroles or on pizza
    • adding fresh fruits to yogurt
    • making a fruit or vegetable a part of a snack

For the amount of fruits and vegetables recommended for adults each day, refer to MyPlate Daily Checklist. Recommendations vary according to daily calorie needs. For many adults that is around 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables each day.


This week’s conversation during National Nutrition Month® is to challenge you to “Put Your Best Fork Forward” when you are away from home. Whether you are making choices in restaurants, convenience stores or from vending and concession stands, we are often tempted by large portions of high fat and sugary snacks.

There are a number of choices you can make for a healthier meal that you can thoroughly enjoy. Here are some ideas to “meet the challenge.”

  • At fast food restaurants, choose the junior or smaller sandwich, share the small fries, and choose water or a small drink.
  • Going out for pizza? Enjoy the thin crust with extra veggies.
  • At “order from your table” restaurants, share an entrée or choose a smaller portion entree option if it is available. Skip the fried foods and creamy sauces. Choose salad with a light vinaigrette dressing on the side.
  • When stopping at a convenience store, stick with the small snack bags of nuts, yogurt, string cheese sticks, whole grain cereal cups, whole grain granola bars, fresh fruits and baby carrots.

Explore MyPlate Teaching Cards are a versatile nutrition ed tool to help you teach all ages during National Nutrition Month and year round!

Explore MyPlate  Cards








Explore MyPlate Teaching Cards offer quick and fun nutrition and activity messages for the following audiences and more:

Health Fair or Parent Night (worksites, community events or schools) – Set up display tables of the 5 MyPlate food groups and active play. Provide participants teaching cards and point out the healthy messages as you lead them through the table displays. (See our Explore MyPlate event guide for details.)

explore myplate cover hi res










Classroom or Afterschool Kids Activities – Choose a theme each week during the month (Grains, Fruits & Veggies, Dairy, Protein and Active Play). Use the cards for bulletin board ideas, weekly kids challenges and quick healthy messages during breaks. Also a great asset for use with our Balance My Day ™nutrition curriculum!

Balance My Day Grades 3-5 Nutrition Curriculum

Health Departments and Clinics – Place teaching cards in waiting and exam rooms and use for nutrition education opportunities.

Be creative with your Healthy Kids Challenge resources and the following National Nutrition Month Event Ideas:

To learn more about National Nutrition Month, here is a link to the press release: This National Nutrition Month, the Academy Encourages Everyone to Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle

Challenge yourself and your kids to continue to “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right” beyond National Nutrition Month.

Challenge 1: Share family mealsmedium_Boy and Dad Salad Mix6767XSmall

  • Try the Oregon Shared Meals Initiative
  • “Research shows that regular family meals boost consumption of dairy, fruits, vegetables, and grains, and reduce consumption of soft drinks. Youth who have regular family meals also do better in school, are more motivated and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors.”
  • To help kids enjoy eating right, have them help shop, prepare, and taste new recipes all throughout the month of March, and even into spring and summer.

Challenge 2: Make tortilla pizza and fruit mix-up for a family meal

Food Safety Reminder

  • Clean hands, food contact surfaces, and fruits and veggies.
  • Separate raw, cooked, & ready-to-eat foods while shopping, storing, and preparing foods.
  • Cook foods to a safe temperature.
  • Chill (refrigerate) perishable foods promptly. 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Tortilla Pizza
Preparation Time: 5 minutes. Serves: 6 servings

12 small corn or flour tortillas
1-16 oz. can fat free refried beans
1⁄4 cup chopped onion
2 oz. fresh or canned green chili peppers, diced
6 Tbsp. red taco sauce
3 cups chopped vegetables (such as broccoli, mushrooms, bell peppers)
½ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
Vegetable oil
1⁄2 cup chopped cilantro (optional)


  1. Brush one side of each of two tortillas with water. Press the wet sides of the tortillas together to form a crust for the pizza.
  2. Brush the outside of the tortillas with a small amount of oil. Evenly brown both sides in a heated frying pan. Repeat with the rest of the tortillas. Set aside.
  3. Heat refried beans, chopped onion, and half of the diced chili peppers together in a medium saucepan, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  4. Spread about 1/3 cup of the bean mixture on each tortilla pizza.
  5. Sprinkle each pizza with 1 tablespoon taco sauce, then top with ½ cup of chopped vegetables, 1 teaspoon of diced chili peppers, and 1 tablespoon of shredded cheese.
  6. Return to frying pan and heat until cheese melts. Top with cilantro, if desired.
  7. Cut pizzas into quarters and serve on dessert plates for tasting.
  8. Clean work area and utensils with warm soapy water. Rinse with clean water.

Per full-size serving (1 pizza): 257 Calories, 9.0g Pro, 5.8g Fat, 20% Calories from Fat
Recipe Source: (Modified) http://www.fruits& Accessed 6/11.

Fruit Mix-Up
Preparation Time: 10-15 minutes. Serves: 9 (1 cup) servings

6 cups crushed pineapple, packed in juice and drained
2-1/4 cups frozen blueberries
3/4 cup dried apricots, chopped


  1. In advance, keep blueberries frozen.
  2. Wash hands with soap and water before handling food or utensils to prevent the sprea of germs.
  3. Using a clean cutting board and sharp knife, chop the dried apricots into small pieces. Measure 1 cup and place in the large mixing bowl.
  4. Place the drained pineapple in the mixing bowl and stir.
  5. Add the frozen blueberries to the bowl and stir gently. Serve.
  6. Clean-up work area and utensils with warm soapy water. Rinse with clean water.

Per 1 cup serving: 134 Calories, 0.5g Protein, 0.3g Fat, 2% Calories from Fat

One of the best strategies to teach kids healthy habits is to be a healthy role model yourself. After all, actions speak louder than words, especially when it comes to kids!

So, here are some role modeling tips, based on our Healthy6 key messages that will get you and your kids on the path toward healthy habits for life. And the theme for National Nutrition Month this year is also, Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day; a convenient tie-in to these tips today!

  1. Fruits and Veggies Every Day. Eat YOUR Veggies! …and your fruits. When kids see you eating them, they’ll be more likely to try them, and like them too.
  2. Make Smart Serving Size Choices. Serve yourself appropriate portion sizes, and don’t overeat. Also, talk to kids about your own feelings of hunger and fullness to help them learn portion control, too.
  3. Do Your Own Drink Think. Make ice cold water or skim milk your drink of choice at every meal, and your kids will come to expect it as the norm, not the exception.
  4. Attack Everyone’s Snacks. Build healthy snacks into your own routine, and sit down and eat them with kids whenever possible.
  5. Active Play, Balance Everyone’s Day! Get out there and move around with the kids, whether it’s an organized sport, or just free play. Find your own fitness routine and let the kids see you making it a priority every day.
  6. Build Breakfast into Your Day. When kids see you enjoying breakfast every day, they are more likely to join in and start their day that way too.

What are you doing to Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day throughout the month of March?

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