What Kids Know

April 2, 2018

Cute elementary children having lunch at school

As nutrition educators, it is always a little surprising to realize what kids know. When it comes to healthy eating, sometimes they “know” more than we think they do, and other times they can be “pretty far off base.” Nutrition misinformation and sensationalized studies can make it confusing for all of us. The frequent new “this or that” diets or recommendations make it even more important for nutrition education to help kids:

1. Understand the “basics” of healthy eating choices and how to use tools like MyPlate.

2. Understand how to identify healthy habits and the skills needed for balanced choices.

3. Adopt positive attitudes and build skills for healthy habits:

  • Develop cooking skills to:
    • Learn how healthier foods can be tasty choices
    • Experience the difference “colorful” plates can make
    • Develop more variety of food choices
  • Understand how all foods can fit in a diet with healthy choices
  • Find enjoyable ways to balance eating intake with physical activity

4. Help to make healthier options from which to choose available.

A recent WOWS Newsletter thought for the week is from Henry J. Kaiser: “Find a need and fill it.” We know there is a need; let’s fill it one step at a time.

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Elementary Pupils And Teacher Eating Lunch

March is National Nutrition Month®, and the 2018 slogan is “Go Further with Food.” This month is the perfect time to go further with support for healthier habits. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has ideas to celebrate the month; Healthy Kids Challenge has seen success with the ideas posted for schools or workplaces. We’ve highlighted a few of those, along with some suggestions:

  1. Vote for your favorite fruits and vegetables: Offer a selection of fruits and vegetables cut into bite-size pieces. Ask participants to vote for their favorite vegetable and fruit. Post a tally board to record votes. Handout “20 Ways to Enjoy More Fruits and Vegetables.” HKC Suggestion: Start a Fruit and Veggie Challenge. Have kids tally the number of fruits and veggies they eat each day.
  2. Classroom: Ask children to carefully save empty food product labels and boxes. Spend some time reading labels and comparing information in the Nutrition Facts panels. Expand into a menu-planning opportunity, individually or in teams, using MyPlate as the guide to a healthy meal. HKC Suggestion: For a “Snack Attack” lesson, collect snack food labels. Create a pictorial graph of food from the most to the least amount of sugar or fat.
  3. Organize a health fair that promotes healthy eating resources and important preventive screenings. HKC Suggestion: Make it as interactive as possible. For example, focus on fruit and veggie resources and conduct a vote for their favorites, as suggested in #1 above.

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.

What You Do and How You Do It

September 11, 2017

Stack of white paper plates on white surface

Hands-on learning is a strategy used to increase the effectiveness of nutrition education. It often takes a little creativity to come up with activities that don’t require a lot of extra consumable resources. The Healthy Kids Challenge Balance My Day Nutrition Education Curriculum has strived to meet the challenge. Each curriculum activity includes, if needed, a supply list. Overall, curriculum resource needs are very minimal. Because there are so many wonderful learning activities that can be done with MyPlate, we recommend a good supply of very inexpensive paper plates.

Here are some examples of a few different, age-appropriate activities using paper plates:

  1. Have kids recreate a Choose MyPlate image to use as artwork and for other learning activities.
  2. Focus on fruits and vegetables. MyPlate recommends a goal of making half your plate fruits and vegetables. Ask kids to first draw a line to divide their plate in half; and then in the appropriate spaces, draw the image of the fruit(s) and vegetable(s) they had for their previous meal. Talk about whether or not what they ate met the MyPlate goal.
  3. Hold up an image of a food and ask kids to draw it in the appropriate food group.
  4. Ask kids to draw a plate with images of foods, placed in the appropriate food groups that they would eat for breakfast (or lunch/dinner).

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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

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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.

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)

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