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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)

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.

Mix and Learn

November 7, 2016

Happy kids preparing a meal in the kitchen

When it comes to kids, cooking provides one of the best ways for learning about healthy eating without them being aware they are learning! At holiday time, simple mixes make a festive snack and can provide many teachable moments. Try it. You may like it!

If you are a classroom teacher, consider giving the following recipe to room mothers for holiday party preparation rather than having the kids mix it up. However, with teachable moments you can still give kids some touch, smell, taste and learn experiences!

Snack Mix Recipe

4 cups Wheat Chex cereal
4 cups Cheerios
2 cups mini pretzels
6 cups packaged popcorn
1 cup pumpkin seeds (optional)
1 cup dried fruit (such as cran-raisin)
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients. Makes approximately 25-¾ cup servings.

Note: Save the Nutrition Facts labels for each ingredient.

Teachable moments:

  1. Identify MyPlate food groups for each ingredient. Discover which ingredient does not belong to any food group.
  2. Look at the Nutrition Facts label and ingredient list.
    • Look at each label for the serving size. Use a measuring cup to demonstrate the size.
    • Look at each recipe ingredient for the amount of sugar it contains. (As a reference, four grams of sugar is about 1 teaspoon.) Which ingredients have the most sugar? Look at the recipe and amount of each ingredient in the recipe. Related to healthier balance, ask why the recipe has smaller amounts of dried fruit and chocolate chips than cereal.
    • Find the products with whole grain listed as a first ingredient. Point out that MyPlate encourages us to eat more whole grains.

Taste and Learn

October 31, 2016

Little boy chef tasting soup.

Kids learn by doing and they are always eager to lend a hand in the kitchen. So take advantage of the interest by combining cooking and learning! At Healthy Kids Challenge we refer to this as “Taste and Learn.” Start with:

  • Learning about and practicing food safety. Have kids research recommendations for safe foods. Resource: Learn about Clean – Separate – Cook – Chill from Fight Bac! http://www.fightbac.org/
  • Talk about the Food Groups identified in MyPlate and sort the recipe ingredients by Food Group. Have kids journal their food intake for one or more days, and determine the number of servings consumed from each MyPlate food group. An easier option is for kids to journal fruit and vegetable intake only. Resource: MyPlate. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/

Make it Personal

August 22, 2016

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Commitment is an ingredient in the recipe for success. When school wellness team members have a personal interest in wellness, they are much more likely to promote healthy behaviors and participate in creating healthier environments.

School wellness team members have the power to change misconceptions about what a healthy eating means. For too long, many have viewed good nutrition as a “diet” when in fact all foods can fit with balance. Team members become role models and ambassadors for healthy change. MyPlate, Let’s Move, USDA Team Nutrition and Healthy Kids Challenge Balance My Day Curriculum are resources that demonstrate how “all foods can fit” with moderation, variety and healthy balance.

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January is always a good time for a “Healthy Balance Check”. Start the year with a clean slate on the path to healthy habits. Have a MyPlate poster handy to discuss and have kids visualize healthy balance with eating choices. Also point out what isn’t found on MyPlate such as high sugar foods and beverages (soft drinks, syrups, candy, cookies, cakes, pastries).

Hear – See – Do Activities

  1. Have kids check current eating habits. Draw MyPlate on a paper plate. For each meal think about whether or not there is good balance with all food groups. One simple reminder for each meal is to fill half our plates with fruits and veggies.
  2. Because an important part of healthy balance is balancing food (energy in) with active play (energy out), on the back of the paper plate have kids write the activities and number of times they do them each week.
  3. Ask kids to set an easy to reach healthy goal. For example, one more fruit or veggie choice or one less soft drink each day.
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