Kindergarten children eating lunch

The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) resource HEALTH AND ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT makes it clear that healthy eating and physical activity are linked to academic achievement. This means it is very much worth ensuring that we take the time to make it the most effective.

The Healthy Kids Challenge curriculum foundation has set the stage with learning theories and evidence based content for the greatest success. The content is built on the foundation of six healthy habit messages: daily physical activity and choosing breakfast, fruits and vegetables, healthy snacks, right-size portions, and healthy beverages. The curriculum meets standards recommended by the CDC HECAT (Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool). Hands-on learning activities are designed to build skills for making healthy choices. The following appealing messages are repeated in different ways:

  • Active Play, Balance My Day
  • Breakfast GO Power
  • Drink Think
  • Fruits & Veggies – Every Day the Tasty Way
  • Smart Servings
  • Snack Attack

Along with building skills for making healthy choices, we help educators set kids up for success by creating settings that support healthier choices. For some time, research has supported healthier environments. The USDA Local School Wellness Policy requirements are one way healthier environments are supporting kids.


Young boy and girl enjoying their breakfast before school

Is there a better time for a breakfast campaign than the start of the new school year? Kick off the year for academic success! From studies, we know that kids who eat breakfast have better concentration and more energy. In fact, eating breakfast can help improve math, reading, and standardized test scores!

If you are an educator or youth leader:

  • Help kids hear the message that breakfast is a daily habit that gives GO Power for more energy and better concentration, making school easier!
  • Choose interactive lessons that let kids see that breakfast foods can be fun and tasty!
  • Plan activities that let them do, such as Healthy Kids Challenge Taste and Learn Lessons that give the option of preparing and tasting a breakfast recipe.

If you are a parent:

  • Learn more about actions in your school district to support the connection between breakfast and increased potential for academic success.
  • For home, take time with your children to make a list of healthy breakfast ideas. If breakfast is frequently skipped, talk about why. Discuss how to make breakfast a daily habit.

iStock_000009330809XSmallSchool field trips can provide healthy, experience-based education and engaging activities. Check out the Target Field Trip Grants opportunity for funding and schedule a wellness-based field trip for the kids you lead. See ideas below!

Hear – See – Do Activity Ideas

Help kids hear the message that eating healthy food is nourishing and tasty too!

Let them see examples of healthy, tasty food choices at local gardens, grocery stores or food banks.

Let them do by providing interactive activities.

Give kids a chance to touch, feel, smell, see and incorporate all modes of learning with food-related field trips:

  • Grocery stores provide an opportunity to teach about the MyPlate food groups (Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Dairy, Protein). Show kids how to read food labels and make healthy food choices.
  • Local farmer’s markets, orchards or gardens offer kids a chance to see a colorful variety of healthy produce and to learn how it is grown.

Incorporate physical activity and community service in a field trip:

  • Schedule a time when kids can assist a local community garden with gardening tasks such as planting or harvesting.
  • Set-up a time when kids can assist a community food bank to unload, shelve or package food items for patrons. Discuss hunger in America and the local organizations working toward solutions.

“I’d recommend this workshop to others. Usable, vital information regarding content and delivery methods.”Balance My Day workshop participant

Leroy, NYDuring the LeRoy, NY Central School district Balance My Day Training, we were treated to a colorful, tasty lunch that perfectly illustrated the Healthy Kids Challenge Balance My Day approach.

Food service staff prepared a salad bar, dinner rolls, soup and cookies for all school staff at continuing education classes and thus demonstrated that the cafeteria is THE perfect nutrition laboratory! In addition to the well-presented food, posters in the cafeteria help promote physical activity and healthy eating and create a welcoming atmosphere for students and staff.

Balance My Day (BMD) workshop attendees identified other ways their school can promote healthy lifestyle choices such as:

  • displaying MyPlate concepts on bulletin boards,
  • using brain break activities from the BMD Curriculum to promote fun physical activity AND teach nutrition concepts,
  • food journaling activities such as a MyPlate paper chain and a Plate Your Breakfast game,
  • playing tag games in P.E. which promote healthy choices,
  • promoting healthy breakfast options in the nurses’ office and
  • using food cards to help students choose a variety of foods from each food group.

I was impressed with the thorough way that LeRoy Schools planned their BMD Training allowing a variety of school staff to attend – lower elementary teachers, P.E. and science teachers, a family and consumer science teacher as well as school nurses.

Because of this comprehensive approach, students and staff in the LeRoy School District will encounter the message to Eat Right and Move More from many different sources during their school day and beyond.

Participants stated:

“New ideas to use in elementary classroom with new curriculum.”

“Active and fun!”

When PEP Grant coordinators in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) noticed that students were throwing away untouchedworkshop-Wisconsin baked potatoes served at lunch, they responded by producing lighthearted YouTube videos about a number of different fruits and veggies.

During our 2 days of Balance My Day Training for 6th – 8th grade teachers in the MPS, we got to be entertained by several of these videos which feature MPS students demonstrating preparation tips and giving geography and history facts about a fruit or vegetable. The short videos were designed for teachers to play in order to encourage students to eat healthier; they are a terrific addition to the District’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Toolbox.

One teacher commented that if students aren’t taught about healthy eating, all they know to do is pick up chips from the local convenience store. We discussed techniques to encourage Smart Snacking in order to help address his concerns. Teachers also learned about ways to work with their building’s Coordinated School Health Teams in order to effect policy and procedure changes regarding nutrition education and physical activity promotion.

I was thrilled to hear a number of teachers who planned to go back to their schools ready to help their health and wellness teams reach out to students and families in creative ways such as food tastings at parent nights, Brain Breaks in classrooms – even those with limited space for movement- and literacy activities using books their students are enjoying to help promote more minutes of motion and healthy food choices. Because of the thorough actions the PEP Grant Team at Milwaukee Public Schools continues to take, students there are truly learning how to “Balance My Day.”

“Well prepared, great, inexpensive activities to use at our schools. Thank you for letting us discuss schools situations, roadblocks, etc.” -Liz Dimick, Barton/081

“The workshop was really enlightening. It gave me ideas on how to teach my nutrition unit this year.”-Grace Scott, Dr. King Elementary

Little girl eating healthy breakfast

Our little friend Ali eating whole grain oats topped with fresh fruit plus low fat milk to drink

Lets talk Breakfast GO Power this week since it fits in perfectly with the Back to School season. We have two awesome resources to help you start the conversation with kids. The To-Go Breakfast Ideas Activity may be designed with middle schoolers in mind, but it can easily be adapted to younger grades. And the new printable called, “Help Kids Fix Their Own Breakfast” breaks it down into the basic skills kids need to build their own healthy breakfast habit!

A little description of each one follows:

To-Go Breakfast Ideas – Activity

After completing this activity kids will understand the reasons for eating breakfast, create To-Go breakfast ideas and advocate for the healthy menu options they create.

Part of the activity is having kids think of To-Go breakfast ideas, and here is a sample to get them started:

  • A tortilla “wrap” made with a tortilla, a slice of low fat cheese and thinly sliced apples

  • A frozen, toasted mini waffle, spread with peanut butter and topped with banana slices, and 1% milk to drink

At the end, challenge kids to think about their own breakfast habits and set a goal. If they don’t eat breakfast, ask them to consider setting a goal to eat breakfast more often. If they already eat breakfast most days, ask them to set a goal to include 3 or more MyPlate food groups each day.

Help Kids Fix Their Own Breakfast – Printable

Give your child the skills to make a simple breakfast and start the day off with healthy eating. Topics covered include talking about healthy balance with breakfast, tools in the kitchen, and breakfast recipe ideas.

Did you know?

  • More than half of all teens do not eat breakfast daily.

  • Skipping breakfast may cause kids to not perform well at school.

  • Eating breakfast is a key Healthy6 behavior that is linked to improving academic performance.

Let us know your Breakfast GO Power successes as you help kids get a great start to the new school year!

Move & Learn is how we refer to the physical activity sections within each and every nutrition lesson of the Balance My Day™curriculum. Why include physical activity lessons in a nutrition education curriculum? Oh there are so many reasons why! I could write 4 more blog posts about why. How about I just stick with this for starters: Pairing healthy eating habits with moving more is what’s best for kids’ bodies and minds.

Here’s one to try:

Adjectives and Healthy Snacks Move & Learn
*developed for grades K-2, but easily adaptable for older kids

Ask kids to jump up and perform a movement (touch the sky, hop, run in place) when they hear an adjective in front of a healthy snack choice. Read from the following list:

crunchy apple
yummy banana
juicy orange
toasted, mini bagel
crisp whole grain tortilla
chewy string cheese

If you like this one, there are 29 more in that K-2 Balance My Daycurriculum, one for every nutrition lesson. There are 60 more Move & Learns, all age-appropriate and linked to the nutrition lessons…AND every Balance My Daycurriculum comes with SPARK PE lessons to support and enhance the curriculum!

Now for the “improving academic performance” part of this…As I said there are so many reasons to combine nutrition and physical activity when it comes to kids’ health. One that is receiving major attention lately is the positive association between physical activity and academic performance. While there are literally hundreds of studies supporting this link, I want to simply share 3 statements from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) specifically about studies on classroom physical activity breaks:

  • Eight of the nine studies found positive associations between classroom-based physical activity and indicators of academic performance.
  • Classroom teachers can incorporate movement activities and physical activity breaks into the classroom setting that may improve student performance and the classroom environment. Most interventions reviewed here used short breaks (5–20 minutes) that required little or no teacher preparation, special equipment, or resources.
  • School boards, school administrators, and principals can feel confident that maintaining or increasing time dedicated for physical activity during the school day will not have a negative impact on academic performance, and it may positively impact students’ academic performance.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Association Between School Based Physical Activity, including Physical Education, and Academic Performance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2010.

For more evidence-based information on this topic, here are two links:

Healthy Policies, Practices, and Environments – Healthy Kids Challenge

Academics and Physical Activity – The SPARK Programs

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