What Kids Know

April 2, 2018

Cute elementary children having lunch at school

As nutrition educators, it is always a little surprising to realize what kids know. When it comes to healthy eating, sometimes they “know” more than we think they do, and other times they can be “pretty far off base.” Nutrition misinformation and sensationalized studies can make it confusing for all of us. The frequent new “this or that” diets or recommendations make it even more important for nutrition education to help kids:

1. Understand the “basics” of healthy eating choices and how to use tools like MyPlate.

2. Understand how to identify healthy habits and the skills needed for balanced choices.

3. Adopt positive attitudes and build skills for healthy habits:

  • Develop cooking skills to:
    • Learn how healthier foods can be tasty choices
    • Experience the difference “colorful” plates can make
    • Develop more variety of food choices
  • Understand how all foods can fit in a diet with healthy choices
  • Find enjoyable ways to balance eating intake with physical activity

4. Help to make healthier options from which to choose available.

A recent WOWS Newsletter thought for the week is from Henry J. Kaiser: “Find a need and fill it.” We know there is a need; let’s fill it one step at a time.

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Cute toddler boy in supermarket choosing fresh organic carrots

Knowledge of nutrition without application leads nowhere. Be a “change helper” by helping kids recognize healthy habits; inspiring positive attitudes; identifying and developing skills; and setting realistic goals. The following example identifies a healthy habit and focuses on one of a number of skills for making “Smart Servings.”

Healthy Habit Goal: Choose “Smart Servings”
An activity that targets skills for recognizing and choosing less of foods high in saturated fat and added sugar.

Ask kids to:

  1. Identify their favorite snack foods and list them on a board.
  2. Review the list and identify snacks that might be higher in fat and/or sugar.
  3. Bring in package labels or search for product nutrition facts labels online.
    – Review the labels for serving sizes and compare to typical intake.
    – Check fat and added sugar content.
    – Rank the order of foods from those highest to lowest in fat. Do the same for added sugar.
  4. Talk about strategies for lowering fat and added sugar intake (answer: smaller servings or choosing those foods less often, or making another lower fat/sugar choice).
  5. Talk about whether or not they would use those strategies to make a change. If not, identify the barriers and possible solutions.

Happy kids preparing a meal in the kitchen

This week’s WOWS Newsletter discusses the benefits of implementing a “taste and learn” activity and provides guidance for creating one. In that spirit, following is an easy-to-implement nutrition education activity designed to encourage healthy holiday choices.

  1. Talk about Snack Attack, i.e., many snack choices are filled with “empty calories.” In other words, some snacks provide a majority of calories from sugar or fat with few nutrients or health benefits. Examples: cakes, cookies, pies and pastries, doughnuts, fries, jams, syrups, jelly, sweetened fruit drinks, chips, salted snacks, candy, and soda provide lots of sugar or fat but have no or minimal vitamins, minerals, protein or fiber!
  2. Suggest kids create some healthier snack alternatives, i.e., choices we can enjoy. Because the holidays are approaching, include some with a holiday twist.
  3. There are many ways we can begin to think about choices; however, let’s begin by getting creative with ways we might make a hearty snack out of an English muffin. Set up the activity by listing potential ingredients:
    • Start with:
      • A whole grain English muffin or bagel
    • Choose a spread:
      • Peanut butter (or other nut butter)
      • Low fat cream cheese
      • Spaghetti sauce
    • Be creative with choosing a healthy topping mix such as:
      • Grated carrots and dried fruit
      • Chopped apples (sprinkled with cinnamon and softened in the microwave) and raisins
      • Chopped kiwis, strawberries and drained crushed pineapple
      • Chopped bananas and a sprinkle (1 tsp.) of mini chocolate chips
      • Sliced peaches and blueberries
      • Mozzarella cheese and shredded ham
      • Mozzarella cheese, chopped green pepper and tomatoes
      • Thinly sliced cucumbers and shredded ham (toss ham with small amount of low fat dressing)
      • Sliced hardboiled egg and shredded low fat cheese
  4. Create a list of the ideas generated and encourage kids try them with the help of their family.

Healthy body healthy mind

The “secrets” of healthy eating include variety, moderation and balance. A consistent, repeated message is one key to learning. A daily, or even weekly, message targeted not just to knowledge, but also attitude and healthy behavior, is the aim. In the classroom, plan 5-10 minute nutrition education or physical activity brain breaks. It doesn’t have to be complex:

Nutrition Ed

  • Discuss how MyPlate shows us how to choose a variety of foods from different food groups.
  • Talk about moderation. What is it and how do we choose it? Point out how MyPlate gives us serving sizes for the foods we eat and also recommends the number of servings we should eat for our age, gender and how active we are.
  • Talk about how eating a healthy breakfast can make school easier. Breakfast provides morning “Go Power.”

Brain Breaks

  • Talk about how moving more balances “energy in” from the foods we eat with “energy out” for a healthy heart and weight. While moving, ask kids to call out their favorite choices for active play.
  • Between lessons, have kids do jumping jacks, jog in place or act out sports like swimming, tennis or basketball.
  • Play five minutes of “musical desks.”

If time is limited to implement a full comprehensive nutrition education curriculum, do something else. There are many “One-a-Day” ideas to help fill a gap. Contact Healthy Kids Challenge for more ideas. The Healthy Kids Challenge Balance My Day™ curriculum is full of discussion points, hands-on activities and worksheets.

Health

The benefits of including nutrition education during the school day are hard to ignore!

Benefits for Schools

Helping students stay healthy through eating healthy foods and being physically active can help schools achieve better overall:

  1. Test scores
  2. Grades
  3. Attendance rates
  4. Behavior patterns

Benefits for Parents

Kids spend a great deal of their time in school. A healthy school environment can:

  1. Provide opportunities to learn and practice healthy behaviors

Benefits for Kids

Eating healthier and staying active in school can help kids:

  1. Gain knowledge and skills to make healthy choices
  2. Feel better
  3. Do better in sports
  4. Concentrate
  5. Get better grades and test scores

Source: National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

If you are looking for assistance in choosing a flexible, easy-to-implement, comprehensive nutrition education program, contact Healthy Kids Challenge!

What You Do and How You Do It

September 11, 2017

Stack of white paper plates on white surface

Hands-on learning is a strategy used to increase the effectiveness of nutrition education. It often takes a little creativity to come up with activities that don’t require a lot of extra consumable resources. The Healthy Kids Challenge Balance My Day Nutrition Education Curriculum has strived to meet the challenge. Each curriculum activity includes, if needed, a supply list. Overall, curriculum resource needs are very minimal. Because there are so many wonderful learning activities that can be done with MyPlate, we recommend a good supply of very inexpensive paper plates.

Here are some examples of a few different, age-appropriate activities using paper plates:

  1. Have kids recreate a Choose MyPlate image to use as artwork and for other learning activities.
  2. Focus on fruits and vegetables. MyPlate recommends a goal of making half your plate fruits and vegetables. Ask kids to first draw a line to divide their plate in half; and then in the appropriate spaces, draw the image of the fruit(s) and vegetable(s) they had for their previous meal. Talk about whether or not what they ate met the MyPlate goal.
  3. Hold up an image of a food and ask kids to draw it in the appropriate food group.
  4. Ask kids to draw a plate with images of foods, placed in the appropriate food groups that they would eat for breakfast (or lunch/dinner).

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You’re invited! Mark your calendars and sign up for an inspiring March 7th webinar, Making Healthy Eating a Habit… Anywhere Kids Live, Learn, Work and Play. This one hour webinar will be presented by Vickie L. James, Registered, Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist and the creator of the award winning Healthy Kids Challenge, now an integral part of School Specialty and SPARK programs. There is no cost.

Please join us to get some simple tips and ideas for integrating nutrition education into kids’ daily world. From classroom to PE, after school and community youth programs, you’ll find SPARK nutrition education resources your “go to” guide for healthy eating for kids!

Attendees will:

  • Understand the value and need for nutrition education for kids.
  • Discover simple ways to implement nutrition education into existing curriculum and youth programs.
  • Learn “edu-tainment” tips to make nutrition education fun for kids.
  • Discover how Healthy Kids Challenge nutrition education materials available through SPARK can be a valuable guide for your teaching needs.

Learn how you can be part of the healthy solution team for child nutrition!

Highlights include answers to questions like:

  • WHERE and HOW do I teach nutrition education?
  • Where can nutrition education find a home? How to deal with the time, tools and other issues.
  • Are you equipped? Understanding quick, simple ways to teach nutrition education in an integrated approach throughout the school day, or in youth programs.

When: Tuesday, March 7th, at 5pm Pacific, 8pm Eastern *Note the special time at 5pm Pacific*

Who: Grades K-8 classroom teachers and administrators, PE specialists, health and science teachers, school food service managers, school wellness council members and after school, summer camp, and youth program teachers and staff.

Duration: 60 Minutes

Cost: Free

Sign up: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8780966321799780609

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