Family At Home In Eating Meal Together

A number of smaller “bits” of healthy changes over time can add up to make a big difference. At home or at school, changing our own habits and way of thinking is just as easy as practicing small changes.

It is still common to hear parents and teachers talk about rewarding kids with sweets like ice cream or a school pizza party. The concern is not because the kids are having ice cream or pizza, which can be part of a balanced eating plan. It is the consistent use of foods (very often sweets) that is perceived as a reward by the child…a habit that can be carried through life. Each month in 2018, choose several small “bits” of change. Practice helps form healthy habits to last a lifetime.

Ideas to Start the Year

  1. Turn off whichever screen is on (TV, computer, phone) while eating at home. Instead, talk with your family members.
  2. Put snacks on a plate instead of eating from a bag or box.
  3. Use fun physical activity as a reward. Anyone for miniature golf or a scavenger hunt in the park?
  4. Drink water instead of sugary beverages.
  5. Try a fruit or vegetable that you don’t usually eat.
  6. Tune up your “hunger meter.” Eat and enjoy small bites. Stop eating when you are pleasantly (instead of uncomfortably) full.

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

Children Having Fun And Balancing On Tree In Fall Woodland

Let’s put the spotlight on Active Play. It is one part of the Healthy Balance equation (“Active Play” + Healthy Eating Choices = Healthy Balance). It also enhances learning, including nutrition classroom lessons. Every HKC Balance My Day Curriculum nutrition lesson has a corresponding Move and Learn activity. The following activity demonstrates how Active Play can be integrated in the classroom. This example works well for Pre-K to 2nd Grade students. An expanded version is found in the Wellness Solutions Toolkit. For another example, see the October 26th WOWS Newsletter “Spellercise” activity.

Simon Sez, Breakfast gives GO Power!

  1. Talk with students about how eating breakfast makes learning easier and helps kids feel and look their best.
  2. Look at a MyPlate poster ( Point out the different food groups and how we usually eat foods from the Grains Group at Breakfast. Talk about how we get the BEST GO Power when we choose foods from other groups to go with our Grains. Examples: CEREAL with low fat MILK and a BANANA. A whole wheat TORTILLA with low fat CHEESE and APPLE slices. Whole wheat TOAST with scrambled EGG and STRAWBERRIES.
  3. Play Simon Sez to emphasize the benefits of eating breakfast. When YES, students perform movements the leader calls out such as hop, jump, skip, or swim.
    • Simon Sez: Eating breakfast every day helps give you GO Power. (YES)
    • Simon Sez: Missing breakfast gives you GO Power. (NO)
    • Simon Sez: Eating breakfast can help make learning easier. (YES)
    • Simon Sez: Eating breakfast helps kids feel and look their best. (YES)

If you are integrating Active Play into classroom learning or in other situations now, share your ideas with others. Doing so expands opportunities for enhanced learning and healthy balance!

If you haven’t been to the Let’s Move! website, or even if you have, there is always something new to support healthy kids! One thing we love about Let’s Move! is the way they make it easy to choose healthy, easy to take action, and easy to – yes – MOVE.

Easy Move for Schools: Join the HealthierUS Schools Challenge
Take it further: Download the teacher toolkit

Easy Move for Kids: Try new fruits and veggies.
Take it further: Download the full Kids action plan

Easy Move for Parents: Take a walk with your family after dinner.
Take it further: Download a full Parents action plan

Since May is Active Play month at HKC, I do want to point out the whole section on Let’s Move!’s website devoted to getting active. The Get Active section has specific areas targeted at families, schools, and communities. You’ll love the area that gives kids options of “What To Do” on the Let’s Move Outside pages.

A super-easy way to eat healthy is finding the new MyPlate recipes on Pinterest. The Partnership for a Healthier America, Let’s Move!, USDA’s MyPlate, and the nation’s top recipe creators teamed up to make it easier for you to put nutritious meals on the table. Just search for MyPlate Recipes on Pinterest.

Speaking of Pinterest, remember we’re on there too, spreading the word-I mean, the pins-about everything to help build a healthy world for kids! Go to or simply search for our name.

How do you make healthy the easy choice?

The Learning Connection Report from our partner in health, Action for Healthy Kids, aligns perfectly with our model for the Balance My Daycurriculum and we are thrilled to join them in demonstrating that well-nourished and active kids are better equipped for success!

The Learning Connection: What You Need to Know to Ensure Your Kids Are Healthy and Ready to Learn demonstrates that

  • physical activity supports academic achievement,
  • well-nourished kids learn better and
  • that healthier practices in schools can increase school revenue.

The easy-to-read special report, released in 2013, is a roadmap for parents, educators, school administrators and school volunteers to create healthier school environments so the kids in their lives are better positioned to learn.

It’s a follow-up to Action for Healthy Kids’ landmark 2004 report The Learning Connection: The Value of Improving Nutrition and Physical Activity in Our Schools.

Read the full report:

Learn more about HKC’s Balance My Day nutrition curriculum.

From the Big Apple of New York City to sunny California, Healthy Kids Challenge® (HKC) is a shining star in helping PEP grantees create a healthier school environment that lasts far beyond the three year grant award! HKC, a nonprofit with a staff of registered dietitians, is the exclusive nutrition education partner for SPARK, one of the best physical education programs in the world – a true solution to our problem of inactive and poorly nourished kids.

Since nutrition education was added to the PEP grant requirements in 2010, just 3 years ago, Healthy Kids Challenge has assisted over 50 PEP winners. Whether your school is looking to integrate nutrition education into core curriculum and comply with common core/state standards…or challenge your PE teachers with the task of adding nutrition to their PE/health curriculum, our success with guiding schools speaks for itself.

HKC provides training, resources, and technical assistance for:

  • classroom and PE teachers
  • after school staff
  • school wellness councils and
  • community partners.

Customized staff training, comprehensive nutrition education curriculum for grades K-2, 3-5 and 6-8 that meets all HECAT (Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool) standards set by CDC, and distance assistance and coaching can all be part of a successful PEP grant award!

Learn more at or call 1-888-259-6287.

Helpful links:

Healthy Kids Challenge PEP Grant Help

Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) Application Info

SPARK 2013 PEP Grant Information

HECAT report for Healthy Kids Challenge

Balance My Day™ Nutrition Curriculum contents and sample pages

Healthy Kids Challenge® supports Let’s Move! Active Schools, and is offering resources and training to help schools provide an active environment for everyone.Healthy Kids Challenge helps kids eat, move, and enjoy healthy balance

Together, healthy eating and physical activity create balance. Healthy Kids Challenge is committed to helping leaders find ways to support kids and families in finding they C.A.N. (connect activity and nutrition), including:

  • A partnership with SPARK evidence based PE programs.
  • A Move and Learn activity in every nutrition curriculum lesson.
  • Active Play is one of the Healthy6 habits.
  • Integrating physical activity into every workshop and event. Kids and adults learn better with movement.

We support Let’s Move! Active Schools, “a comprehensive program that empowers school champions – P.E. teachers, classroom teachers, principals, administrators, and parents – to create active environments that enable all students to get moving and reach their full potential.”

Check out our Balance My Day™  Nutrition Curriculum grades K-8:

  • Comprehensive classroom lessons integrate math, science and language arts with the CDC HECAT (Health Education Analysis Tool) outcomes.
  • Every lesson has a Move and Learn activity to enhance learning and add more minutes of physical activity to the day.

And our Healthy Kids Challenge Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Trainings:

From school-based nutrition education curriculum and food service training to environmental and policy changes that make healthy eating and physical activity the easy choice, workshops are tailored for your audience and school or community. Let us design a training that meets your needs: half day-full day-breakout sessions!

Here’s an example of a recent HKC-SPARK Nutrition Education Training:

Training for staff in the West Orange, New Jersey school district was centered around:

  • how to integrate brain breaks for better focus and concentration,
  • healthy eating messages sprinkled throughout the school hallways, cafeteria, and classrooms, and
  • nutrition education woven into PE and core curriculum K-12.

Hats off to Thomas A. Edison Middle School and the entire school district in West Orange, who truly understand the strategy of using good nutrition and physical activity to create a culture of health in the schools that can do nothing short of fueling student success.

“Teaching our students to maintain a healthy balance with eating and exercise is our top priority. The SPARK program is helping provide the tools and training to achieve this goal,” shared Corinn Giaquinto, Health and Physical Education instructor, Thomas Edison Middle School, West Orange, New Jersey.

We use the most current evidence-based recommendations of Centers for Disease Control and other leading organizations. Use this link for information about HKC strategies and outcomes. Have an active day!

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