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It is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month and June 23rd is National Picnic Day! Plan a picnic menu to include fruit and veggie finger foods! Use the Picnic Checklist in the June 14th WOWS Newsletter, and then plan to add some of the following menu suggestions to your picnic basket.

Picnic Basket Fruit and Veggie Suggestions:

  • Make fruit kabobs, or for greater transporting ease, fill individual sandwich bags with colorful cubes of fruit.
  • Try the fun Kids Eat Right Chocolate Ladybugs Recipe. The only two ingredients are fresh whole strawberries and semi-sweet dark chocolate chips.
  • Build fruit sandwiches: Spread graham crackers with peanut butter and use sliced banana or apple as a filling.
  • Ants on a log: Spread celery with peanut butter and top with raisins or other dried fruit pieces.
  • Cucumber sandwiches: Cut the cucumber in “coins.” Spread one “coin” with hummus or low fat cream cheese and top with another “coin.” As an option add deli meat or low fat cheese.
  • Assorted veggie sticks: Zucchini, carrots, celery, pea pods and green-yellow-orange-and red peppers.

Healthy Taste Appeal

May 22, 2017

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Create appeal for healthy foods by pleasing the senses with its appearance, smell, texture and mouth-feel. These are the sensations that create taste and enjoyment.

A meal of cold turkey slices, white bread, pears and vanilla pudding has little appeal. All the foods are white, soft, cold and fairly bland. A meal with variety of colors, flavors, textures and temperature increases enjoyment. Substitute strawberries and green grapes for the pear. And heat turkey slices with low fat cheese, sautéed green peppers and onion on a whole grain bun.

A variety of tastes, such as salty and sweet and spicy and bland, as well as strong flavors and light flavors are all factors in creating appeal. When it comes to texture, variety counts here too. A variety of crunchy and smooth, soft and firm makes a difference.

Experiment with the factors that add healthy appeal

Add a “bit” of veggie for crunch and/or color:

  1. Sprinkle grated carrots on sandwiches with lettuce & tomato.
  2. Add extra chopped veggies to a frozen pizza before baking, or to canned soup before heating.

Create appeal with a creative “twist” to the usual:

  1. Instead of a bowl of juice packed peaches, try topping ½ cup unsweetened, canned peaches with a sprinkle of cinnamon and 2 Tbsp. crushed graham cracker crumbs; heat in the microwave until warm.
  2. Instead of a plain graham cracker, try spreading a graham cracker with low fat cream cheese (or peanut butter) and topping with a banana slice.
  3. Instead of juice packed crushed pineapple, try mixing ½ cup of juice packed crushed pineapple with ½ cup frozen berries or ¼ cup dried fruit.
  4. Instead of waffles and syrup, try topping whole wheat toaster waffles with a tablespoon of peanut butter and banana, strawberry and kiwi slices.

Use these and other ideas to add to the Healthy Me summertime journal.

Friends in summer

Teachers, youth leaders and teams find HKC wellness approaches and action ideas effective and easy to use. They report that the HKC tools provide great new strategies for teaching core curriculum. One of the successful strategies is repetition of healthy habit messages using the Healthy6.

Six healthy eat, move and enjoy balance life step goals relate to eating and physical activity components identified by the Centers for Disease Control and National Health Education Standards. Hands-on lessons develop positive attitudes and practical skills for healthy choices.

The creation of a summertime journal, as discussed in this month’s newsletters and blogs, incorporates a number of hands-on lessons and personalizes learning. As kids work on the journal, they are helped to understand that healthy habits don’t just happen. They are the result of practicing…another way of saying it is “be the change you want to see” until it becomes a habit.

Goal setting and “challenges” to motivate and measure progress is one way to personalize learning. For example:

  • First, determine how many fruits and vegetables you are eating each day and how that compares to a healthy intake (see ChooseMyPlate.gov for recommendations). Then, create a fruits and vegetables goal towards a healthy intake. Such as, eat one more fruit or vegetable each day. Then set a “challenge” to achieve that goal every day for the next week. On a calendar, record the number of fruits and/or vegetables eaten each day. For each day the goal was reached, place a star on the calendar.
  • Use the same plan to set a goal and a “challenge” for more minutes of physical activity in the day.

April Digging

April 10, 2017

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April is National Garden Month. Don’t miss the April 12th WOWS Newsletter, in which we share a lesson about cucurbits! At home, school, or during a summer program, gardening is a great way to get kids interested in and learn more about fruits and vegetables. Through gardening, you can apply nutrition lessons and apply math, science, writing and other concepts.

Consider growing a “theme” garden such as:

  • A “pizza” garden with green pepper, onion, tomato, basil and oregano.
  • A “salad” garden with tomato, cucumber, lettuce and carrots.
  • A “salsa” garden with tomato, cilantro, garlic and peppers.
  • A “snack” garden with broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini and cucumbers.

If it isn’t feasible to grow vegetables (and we hope you can at least grow several in a container), visit a farmer’s market and gather vegetables to fit your theme!

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.
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