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

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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.

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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.

What are Your Smart Servings?

February 13, 2017

Too many apples

For this week’s recognition of American Heart Month, the Healthy Kids Challenge WOWS Newsletter points out that we are not being heart smart when we fall for “Portion Distortion.” Bigger servings can mean too much of everything – including calories, sugar and fat – all things that can impact heart health.

“More and less” is a simple concept that many Americans can use to develop healthier habits. Let’s look at the stats to see how to apply the concept.

Need for More
We know that physical activity and eating fruits and veggies are heart healthy habits. However, recent CDC and Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 quoted “stats” show that we haven’t been making the grade:

  • Half of the total U.S. population consumed less than 1 cup of fruit and less than 1.5 cups of vegetables daily.
  • 76% of the U.S. population did not meet fruit intake recommendations, and 87% did not meet vegetable intake recommendations.
  • 51% of adults 18 years of age and over do not meet Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic physical activity.
  • 79% of adults 18 years of age and over do not meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for both aerobic physical and muscle-strengthening activity.

Need for Less

  • In 2007-2010, Americans over-consumed added sugars and solid fats, which are high in calories.
  • Added sugars account on average for almost 270 calories, or more than 13 percent of calories per day in the U.S. population. Teens and men consume the most added sugars.
  • Solid fats consumed as part of foods or added to foods, account for more than 325 calories or more than 16 percent of calories per day, on average for the U.S. population, but provide few nutrients.

Show kids how to add interest and variety to the breakfast meal with foods from the garden. Share the activity below and Happy kids preparing a meal in the kitchenencourage the kids you lead to eat breakfast every day!

Fresh and Tasty English Muffin Recipe

Supplies: toaster oven, cutting board, knife, spatula, small paper plates

Ingredients:
slicing tomatoes
bagged spinach
fresh basil leaves
shredded, part-skim mozzarella cheese
whole grain English muffins (One prepared English muffin provides 4 tasting samples.)

Directions:

  1. Let kids assist with food preparation. Point out the ingredients that can be grown in a garden.
  2. Wash and slice tomatoes on a cutting board, set aside.
  3. Place English muffin halves (inside up) on a baking sheet or oven toaster pan.
  4. Layer each muffin with the following:
    1 slice of tomato
    spinach and basil leaves (pre-washed)
    a sprinkling of shredded mozzarella
  5. Broil for 5-8 minutes or until cheese starts to melt.
  6. Allow to cool slightly and cut into tasting samples.
  7. Place on paper plates and serve.

Healthy Breakfast learning options:

Explain that eating fruits & veggies at breakfast provides color, variety and GREAT taste! So, they will be preparing a fun garden fresh breakfast recipe.

  1. Ask kids if they ate breakfast that morning? Explain that eating breakfast gives them GO Power to play and learn throughout the day.
  2. Ask what kind of foods are eaten at breakfast and write their comments on the board.
  3. Point out that fruit is a common choice but veggies may not be as familiar for breakfast.
  4. Give an example: scrambled eggs with salsa.

Find other class/group activities like the one above on our Printables web page!

Try out these other healthy breakfast and garden resources:
Nourish Interactive – Fun Materials promote Healthy Breakfast for Kids
OSU – Oregon Nutrition Education Program
– Garden Enhanced Nutrition Ed Lessons for Kids

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