Archive for the ‘children's health’ Category


SPARK Joins Forces with KIDS in the GAME, ICAN Foundation and Supporting Organizations to Combat Rising Issues of Childhood Obesity

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Latest collaboration supports Mississippi school with curriculum development, teacher training and equipment aimed at promoting high-quality physical education and nutrition programs that address student health needs

GREENVILLE, Wis., August 18, 2015SPARK™, the premier physical education brand of School Specialty (OTCQB: SCOO), is pleased to announce its exciting collaboration with KIDS in the GAME, the ICAN Foundation and other supporting organizations including GoNoodle, Play Like A Girl and Hip Hop Public Health to counter childhood obesity through the promotion of active and healthy living. Inspired by a school counselor’s passion to implement change in her classroom and community, SPARK recently teamed-up with KIDS in the GAME and ICAN Foundation to provide the Oakhurst Intermediate School in Clarksdale, Mississippi with much-needed resources to develop a comprehensive physical education and health program.

According to U.S. News and World Report, Mississippi leads the country in obesity rates, with about 32.5 percent of its adult residents considered obese – based on a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30, which translates to more than 197 pounds on a 5′8″ person. Further, in “The State of Obesity” report issued by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the state ranks #3 in the U.S. for type 2 diabetes.

This past spring, SPARK’s Executive Director Dr. Kymm Ballard, learned about a school counselor named Lisa Ross who singlehandedly started a fitness program for girls in the Mississippi Delta. Fondly known as ‘Pizzazz Ross’, Lisa created Si Se Puede at Oakhurst Intermediate School to encourage her female students to increase their physical activity and develop new, healthy eating habits.

Her enthusiasm and willpower to effect change despite the lack of financial resources, inspired Dr. Ballard to reach out and encourage Lisa to apply for a PHIT America GO! Grant administered by KIDS in the GAME. The grant would be instrumental in expanding Lisa’s vision for the entire school by incorporating the SPARK program into Oakhurst’s school day.

With the support of Principal Frederick Ford, Lisa applied for the grant, which was given significant consideration as part of a collaborative approach by KIDS in the GAME and SPARK. Together, Executive Director Suzie Nixon of KIDS in the GAME and Dr. Ballard helped Oakhurst with utilizing a $5,000 GO! Grant to catalyze interest from supporting organizations, including:

  • ICAN Foundation, which covered the cost of training and transportation for Lisa Ross and colleague, Gisha Stewart, to receive training this summer at the SPARK 3-6 PE Institute in San Diego. The Foundation is also assisting Oakhurst with the purchase of Sportime fitness equipment.
  • GoNoodle, which has Oakhurst Intermediate School students moving throughout the day with its interactive physical activity breaks — running, jumping, dancing, stretching and deep-breathing — is helping to improve student behavior, focus and academic performance.
  • Play Like A Girl, which is supporting the Si Se Puede program with consultation and programming, including their model Pop-Up Play Day slated for the spring of 2016.
  • Hip Hop Public Health, which is dedicated to promoting healthier food choices and smart exercise through online cartoons, video games, comic books, and music by popular hip hop artists.

KIDS in the GAME’s Suzie Nixon remarked, “The intention of our growing collaboration with SPARK and other partners such as ICAN Foundation, GoNoodle, Play Like A Girl, and Hip Hop Public Health is to raise awareness of the excellent resources available to increase minutes of daily physical activity among youth, particularly in the south. The need to counter obesity and inactivity is propelling local agencies, schools, nonprofit organizations and others across the country to combine forces to support all children in increasing their physical literacy and minutes of movement – in other words, their desire, confidence and ability to be physically active every day.”

“We’re honored to be joining forces with KIDS in the GAME and ICAN Foundation to help reverse the childhood obesity trend and promote lifelong wellness among our youth,” said Dr. Kymm Ballard for School Specialty’s SPARK. “We’re especially excited to work with the Oakhurst Intermediate School in Mississippi to integrate a proven, highly effective physical education program like SPARK into their curriculum. The school’s efforts to make a positive impact on the health of their student body and by extension, the surrounding community, through meaningful activity, fitness and nutrition, are admirable! With the generous sponsorship of ICAN Foundation, it was wonderful to host Ms. Ross and Ms. Stewart at this summer’s SPARK 3-6 PE workshop in San Diego, and we trust that the experience and insights gained will prove valuable to the Oakhurst program.”

SPARK provides evidence-based physical education, after school, early childhood, and coordinated school health programs to teachers and recreation leaders serving Pre-K through 12th grade students. Each SPARK program is a coordinated package of curriculum, teacher training and content-matched equipment. The SPARK pedagogy is focused on highly active games, dances and sports that maximize physical activity, while also incorporating nutrition and health instruction. The SPARK 3-6 PE Institute, which was developed through San Diego State University and originally funded by the Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), is designed to be more inclusive, active, and fun than traditional PE classes. Aligned with the National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) National Standards, SPARK PE lessons are easy to learn and easy to teach. They have been proven to work with both elementary physical education specialists and classroom teachers.

The alliance between ICAN Foundation and SPARK has been invaluable with regards to providing options to schools to make classes, PE and after-school programs more active. Together, the organizations work to raise funds and support the implementation of the SPARK physical education curriculum in local schools. The most recent assistance received from ICAN to enable Ms. Ross’ and Ms. Stewart’s travel to San Diego this summer to participate in training at the SPARK 3-6 PE Institute was very instrumental. ICAN’s founder and NFL running back, Pierre Thomas, saw the need and stepped up to help the two teachers from Oakhurst Intermediate School. In addition, Mr. Thomas and the foundation are donating content-matched equipment from School Specialty’s Sportime line to help Oakhurst increase students’ activity time.

Mr. Thomas underscored, “ICAN Foundation was created to build a healthier generation of young people by encouraging them to become more active and educating them on proper nutrition. We have assembled a strong team at ICAN and we work well together to have an impact in states such as Mississippi, Louisiana and Illinois. Our partnership with SPARK has been a tremendous help and we are excited to implement the SPARK programs. We look forward to growing and making a difference together.”

“We’re committed at Oakhurst Intermediate to building a culture of activity and fitness which we believe are critical to tackling the obesity issue and increasing our students’ ability to succeed not just academically but socio-economically, by preparing them to be healthy, productive members of their communities in Mississippi,” said School Counselor, Lisa Ross. “Physical education has a significant place in a school’s curriculum, which is why our team is so thrilled to integrate the SPARK PE program. My colleague Gisha Stewart and I are grateful for the opportunity given to us to attend the summer training sessions at the SPARK 3-6 PE Institute in San Diego. It was a wonderful experience and we learned so much in terms of techniques and best practices which will be instrumental for developing the SPARK syllabus at Oakhurst.”

Lisa Ross, school counselor for Oakhurst Intermediate School in Mississippi.

Lisa Ross, school counselor for Oakhurst Intermediate School in Mississippi.

About KIDS in the GAME

KIDS in the GAME is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on inspiring kids to thrive in life through sports. The organization provides financial assistance to help youth from low-income families of all abilities gain access to after school sports programs and physical education programs in schools. KIDS in the GAME raises awareness of the importance of athletics in developing future leaders, with skills and values that transfer from the sports field into the classroom, workplace, family and community. For more information on KIDS in the GAME, visit www.kidsinthegame.org.

About the SPARK Programs

SPARK is a research-based organization that creates, implements, and evaluates programs that promote lifelong wellness. The SPARK Programs consist of Early Childhood, K-12 Physical Education, After School, and Coordinated School Health. Each SPARK program provides curriculum, teacher training, follow up support and consultation, and content-matched equipment sets through the School Specialty Sportime business line. For more information on SPARK, visit www.sparkpe.org.

About School Specialty, Inc.

School Specialty is a leading distributor of innovative and proprietary products, programs and services to the education marketplace. The Company designs, develops, and provides educators with the latest and very best school supplies, furniture and both curriculum and supplemental learning resources. Working in collaboration with educators, School Specialty reaches beyond the scope of textbooks to help teachers, guidance counselors and school administrators ensure that every student reaches his or her full potential. For more information about School Specialty, visit www.schoolspecialty.com.

The Best Apps for Keeping Kids Active

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

The Best Apps for Keeping Kids Active

It’s safe to say that the world around us is becoming increasingly mobile and tech-oriented. People of every age are falling in love with their smartphones, tablets, and laptops, which can result in a more lethargic lifestyle and shortened attention spans. Having a healthy approach to life prevents your children from packing on the pounds during adolescence and also gives them the tools they need to set up a life of choices catered to their enhanced wellbeing. According to a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, the fate of a child’s weight can be determined by the time they turn five.

We all know that raising a healthy child is important, but that task can become more trying when you can’t pry them away from their smartphones. Perhaps the best way to deal with the issue is to use technology to your advantage.

Although too much screen time can be unhealthy for your children, innovative new concepts are emerging to help parents prompt their kids into physical activity. Health, nutrition, and fitness applications provide an education into how the body works, what makes it run better, and more, while feeding your child’s technology addiction.

Following are some of our favorite apps for keeping kids active.

Super Stretch Yoga HD

Super Stretch Yoga HD is a free application for the Apple iPad that works to teach children fun and easy yoga moves that they can try out themselves. Instead of simply watching cartoons on their iPad, your child can start trying out poses modeled by children of their own age, letting them stretch out their limbs and show off their skills. The application includes a total of twelve different yoga poses for your child to perfect, each with its own description and accompanying video.

Yoga is a great hobby to get your child interested in physical wellbeing and fitness. Not only does it improve strength and flexibility, but it’s also likely to be something that they continue to enjoy as they grow to later life. The videos included with this application offer reassurance to keep beginners trying time and after time, as well as advice on the best time of day to try out certain poses. You can even play the videos on your television with an Apple TV.

Strava

Are you the kind of parent that regularly walks their child to school or goes for small adventures on the weekend? Strava is an application that allows you to map your walks, bike rides, and hikes and time each journey, so you can show your children how much they’ve accomplished in a certain scope of time.

Typically, this application doesn’t market directly to children, but it is a great way to make walking to school and traveling to new places more fun. The further you go and the more you do, the more of an excuse your child has to be proud of themselves. You even get little notifications when you create a new personal best in your time, allowing you and your little one to celebrate each milestone together.

Iron Kids

Iron Kids is an application lovingly developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics to help children eight years and up get more exercise as they grow. In 2013, the Iron Kids application won it’s very own Web Health Award for providing young athletes with everything they need to safely and effectively improve their fitness, balance, and strength.

The app centers around nine exercises that involve the lower body, upper body, and core. Videos are included to help your kids understand how they can do the exercises and how those exercises benefit them.

Smash Your Food HD

An interactive and informative game intended to teach your children important real-life skills, such as how to read nutrition labels and what they should be eating, Smash Your Food HD is an impressive application for kids. Your child will enter their age and how much exercise they regularly get so that the app can calculate how much salt, sugar, and oil they should be consuming.

With the nutritional labels given for common fast foods as a guide, your kids will then need to estimate how much oil, sugar and salt is in each item. After they’ve submitted their answers, they’ll be able to find out whether the food they’re looking at is healthy for them. Finally, your young ones will get the opportunity to smash the food to pieces, watching a can of soda rip apart or a jelly donut burst!

Fitness Kids

Fitness Kids is an application designed by experts in the fields of pedagogy, physical education, and health. Packed with interesting exercises for children between the ages of 6 and eight, this app teaches children each movement through the use of colorful, engaging videos.

What makes Fitness Kids a little different from other applications is that it offers funky music and colorful backgrounds for a stimulating experience, and the exercises themselves are fun to do. Your kids will keep coming back for more as they figure out their favorite movements, such as the Conga or the Crab. Your children can also engage in competition with their friends, and their skill levels will improve as they continue to progress.

Keep Moving!

Getting your child to give up on technology might be an impossible task, but using that technology to your advantage could provide a safe and easy way to invest in their health. Think about how much time your child currently spends in front of a computer screen and ask yourself if you’d feel better knowing that they were playing a game designed to get them learning and moving.

The earlier your child starts to get in shape, the more chance they have of reducing their risk of certain illnesses. Kids who are frequently active experience:

  • A lower chance of becoming overweight
  • Stronger bones and muscles
  • Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Potentially lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels
  • Leaner physiques
  • Improved confidence

On top of this, the more active a child is, the better he or she will sleep, deal with emotional challenges, and manage physical strain.

Let us know if you’ve discovered any great applications tailored to children that get your young ones moving more often.

Resources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brad-spirrison/kids-health-fitness-apps_b_3580013.html
http://www.parents.com/fun/sports/exercise/10-benefits-of-physical-activity/
http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/features/digital-home/3520917/how-much-screen-time-is-healthy-for-children/
http://www.naturalnews.com/043761_weight_fate_childhood_obesity_healthy_eating.html
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/super-stretch-yoga-hd/id456108738?mt=8
http://www.parents.com/fun/sports/exercise/the-benefits-of-yoga-for-kids/
http://www.strava.com/
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/iron-kids/id552037626?mt=8
http://www.foodnme.com/smash-your-food/
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fitnesskids/id534467673?mt=8

The 5 Best Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat More Vegetables

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Let’s face it–even as adults, there are certain foods that we’d like to avoid eating. However, when it comes to picky eating, it’s fair to say that children really take the biscuit. Often, as parents we struggle to convince our children to eat the right meals at the right times–even with foods we know they enjoy. Introduce a recommended daily dose of vegetables into that equation and you have the perfect recipe for headaches, tantrums, and tears. So why bother with the hassle?

Healthy doses of vegetables can benefit your child in a number of different ways. Fresh, healthy produce results in improved nutrition, an enhanced performance at school, and a decreased risk of childhood obesity. According to information provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, half of your plate should consist completely of fruits and vegetables.

Obviously, the people who came up with this suggestion didn’t have much experience in convincing a child to eat their fruits and veggies. Statistics have shown that only 22% of children between 2 and 5 eat their recommended daily vegetables.

Fortunately for frustrated guardians, there are some tricks and tips that could help you to prompt your child into eating more veggies.

Photo by Martin Cathrae, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license. Photo by Martin Cathrae, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.

1. Use the “One Bite Rule”

This is a simple concept that works brilliantly on younger kids. It’s far too easy for children to decide they hate a food that they haven’t tried before just by looking at it. Push your children to try and eat at least one bite of the food that they’ve vetoed whenever you serve it. Science suggests that the more your child experiences the item, the more they’ll get used to it and begin to enjoy the taste for what it is, rather than rejecting it on principle alone.

2. Try to Make Food Fun

Children can be difficult at times, but if they’ve got one major talent, it’s in the realm of imagination. Kids love to play pretend and make games out of anything and everything. A new vegetable might be intimidating and disappointing for a child who was hoping to eat chicken nuggets, but if you turn it into a game, the task is suddenly less daunting. Transform your reluctant child into a superhero who needs to eat six carrots to see crime perfectly in the dark, or eat five pieces of broccoli for super-strength and you’ll notice the difference.

3. Don’t Push Too Hard–and Praise Success

If your children are working well on the “one bite” rule, the quickest way to spoil it is to force them into finishing their entire plate. Punishments, fighting, and conflict develop into a negative meal experience for your child, and conditioning suggests that the more pressure and discomfort you associate with an item, the more your child will grow to dislike it. When they manage the one bite, reward them with praise or a shiny sticker–anything that convinces them they’ve done a good job. Positive reinforcement is far more productive than negative pushing.

4. Shop and Cook With Your Kids

A great method for getting your children to eat more vegetables, which also connects to the “make food fun” tip above, is to get them involved in the meal process. Take them out to the local supermarkets and have them pick out examples of fresh vegetables that they might like to try. Then, once you get home, ask the child to help you prepare the vegetables. Most children will be happier to chomp through a meal of healthy veggies when they’re brimming with pride that they “made them” themselves.

5. Learn Your Child’s Vegetable Values

Most kids are under the impression that they’re invincible, so trying to convince them to eat their vegetables by telling them how healthy it is probably won’t get you far. Instead, tempt your children with tales that their veggie portions will help them to grow bigger and stronger. Appealing to their desire to grow and overcome their limitations is much more effective than simply using the “Because I told you to” approach.

Don’t Give Up!

We all have those days where our patience seems to have met its limit, but remember that the habits you teach your child now are likely to remain with them as they progress to adulthood. For their sake, it’s important to focus on solving eating issues early. Make the kitchen a fun place and create positive connotations with vegetables. You should find that, after time, your persistence pays off.

What works best for you when getting your kids to eat healthier? Let us know!

Healthy Back to School Lunches

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Beyond PB & J: 5 Healthy Back-to-School Lunch Ideas

Packing a lunch for your child can feel monotonous at times, and by the second month of school, you may feel like you are out of fun, healthy, and creative ideas. Still, sending your child off to school with a homemade lunch ensures that his or her belly will be filled up with good-for-you ingredients to fuel all the learning and playing that happens in class and in physical education.kids_lunch

If you feel stuck in the peanut-butter-and-jelly school lunch rut, take a look at these healthy options instead.

Homemade “Lunchables”

Think outside the typical fare and let your kids create their own mini sandwiches with a variety of goodies, including:

  • Lean protein, like turkey pepperoni or even strips of baked chicken from dinner the night before
  • Low-fat cheese, like mozzarella
  • 100% whole grain crackers
  • A healthy dip, like hummus

You can even add in some veggies, like lettuce and tomato, to give their lunch some added flavor. Add in some apple slices with peanut butter and a few chocolate chips for dessert. The awesome thing about homemade “Lunchables” is that the combinations and ingredient options are endless!

Chicken Noodle Soup

Make a wise one-time purchase of a high-quality thermos that will keep soup nice and warm until the lunch bell rings, and now healthy, convenient soup can be a regular lunchtime favorite! You can make homemade soup ahead of time on the stovetop or in the crock pot and have plenty of leftovers to last throughout the week. Use wholesome ingredients, like:

  • Low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • Chicken breast
  • Lots of veggies, like carrots, broccoli, celery, garlic, peas, and tomatoes
  • 100% whole grain noodles in fun shapes

Add some whole grain crackers or a whole grain roll for dipping. Really, any soup that your child enjoys can be put inside a thermos and carted off to school.

Burritos and Wraps

If it can fit between two slices of bread, it can fit in a wrap! Try a burrito made with brown rice, black beans, fresh salsa, and a little low-fat cheese wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla. Or go for a creative wrap with chicken, lettuce, hummus, and veggies. So many flavor combos work well wrapped up in a convenient hand-held meal. Choose the flavors your child loves the most and get creative!

Chicken “Nuggets”

Chicken nuggets: as much as kids (and let’s face it, adults) love them, their ingredients and preparation are often questionable. Even pre-made frozen nuggets are not always better than the fast-food version. Why not make some delicious homemade chicken nuggets that are far more wholesome than either of these options—and still pretty easy? We like this recipe from PBS Parents. Simply slice chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks, cover them in a yummy, crunchy mixture, and bake to perfection. In about 20 minutes, you’ll have chicken nuggets that can be munched hot or cold, for snack or lunch.

Pizza

Whether you make mini pizzas specifically for lunch time or make pizza for dinner and use the leftovers for a yummy lunch, homemade pizza can be nutritious and wholesome. Try a whole wheat pizza crust topped with homemade sauce (or store-bought, but look for wholesome brands without added sugar or excess sodium), low-fat mozzarella cheese, and turkey sausage or pepperoni. Infuse your pizza sauce with chopped carrots, peas, and spinach to squeeze in extra veggies that will hardly be detected.

Do you have any creative lunch ideas to share?

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

Friday, September 19th, 2014

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness MonthSeptember is known for back-to-school festivities and the transition into fall, but did you know that it’s also Childhood Obesity Awareness Month?

National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, initiated by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) four years ago, brings awareness and recognition to this devastating epidemic among the American youth in the hopes of ending a very real threat to the future health of millions of American children. Let’s look at some facts and some ways you can get involved.

Childhood Obesity Awareness Facts

We are grateful for this month-long promotion of awareness and action for childhood obesity, but this pressing issue should really take the spotlight all 12 months of the year.

Check out the facts:

  • More than 23 million American children between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese or overweight.
  • More than 1/3 of American children are at risk for Type 2 diabetes.
  • Other obesity-related risks include heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.
  • Childhood obesity is a completely preventable disease!

Childhood Obesity Awareness Month was created to educate and inspire the public to take action against the childhood obesity epidemic.

How to Get Involved

Whether you’re a parent, educator, or part of the community, there’s something you can do to help. Check out these ideas:

  • It all starts at home:
    • Educate yourself about the food and drink you consume. Encourage your own family to become more physically active and to develop better eating habits.
    • Expand at the community level:
      • Host an event where families can engage in fun active activities and learn about both the dangers of childhood obesity and how to prevent it.
      • Post flyers in public areas.
      • Tweet and use Facebook to promote activities and awareness.
      • Write a letter to the editor of your local paper encouraging community leaders to become involved.
      • Volunteer to host a presentation on childhood obesity and ways to prevent it at a local school or community center.
      • Approach community groups like scouts, 4H, boys and girls clubs, churches, and other religious communities about hosting an event, presentation, or activity to spread awareness of childhood obesity.
      • Encourage PSAs on local television and radio.
      • Sponsor ads in local media—newspapers, magazines, radio, and television.
      • Partner with other agencies and organizations to hold a large, free to the public event.
      • Get involved with the government
        • Lobby your state legislature, surgeon general, school boards, governor, other state leaders, and even the First Lady/First Gentleman to host events, presentations, activities, and to make childhood health a priority.
        • Lobby for better, healthier school lunch and snack programs.
        • Petition for better funding for physical education programs in schools, improved community recreational facilities, and public health programs to end obesity at all ages.
        • Lobby for better and more funding for state parks and museums to encourage families to become more active.
        • Lobby for changes in state-funded food aid programs to eliminate access to processed foods, foods high in sugar and fat, and soft drinks.

Childhood Obesity need not rob millions of Americans of good health and good living. It can be stopped. It can be reversed. But it will take interested individuals to take action and become involved. The future of our country is at stake. The children of America need you, and while Childhood Obesity Awareness only lasts through September, it is a cause we all need to rally behind every month of the year.

Q: How Can We Help Students Reach 60-a-day?

Monday, May 5th, 2014
A: Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program!

For National Physical Education Week, we’re taking a deeper look into a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program and resources available to help reach the goal of 60 minutes of MVPA a day.

How much activity and why?
It seems you can’t look through a magazine or watch a news program without hearing about the importance of physical activity (PA) and its role in overall health. There’s nothing better for controlling weight, reducing risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers; not to mention PA’s role in increasing muscle strength and bone density, improving attention in class, and so much more. PA is the “wonder drug” of champions (literally!).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the President’s Council on Fitness, Sport, and Nutrition all recommend 60 minutes of physical activity for children ages 6-17. With that dosage kids will be healthier, happier, leaner, and have a much better chance of living longer. Sixty minutes seems to be the “magic” number and it should consist mostly of aerobic activities in the moderate to vigorous intensity level range (MVPA), such as brisk walking, running, swimming, etc., as well as 3 days/week of muscular strengthening like gymnastics and calisthenics. So, how on earth are today’s busy kids supposed to accumulate 60 minutes of MVPA most days?

Physical Education (PE) is a great start!

Let’s say your school has a fabulous, quality physical education program with daily PE for all students. They have PE for 30+ minutes (for elementary) and 45+ minutes (for MS/HS) each day and they are engaged in MVPA for 50% of class time — always! It’s an ideal program all around. Sounds great, right?  It is – yet it’s also VERY rare.

Are YOUR students reaching the magic dosage of 60 minutes on most days with PE alone? If not, they’ll need to find other physical activity opportunities throughout the day if they’re going to achieve their 60 minute goal.

How might you supplement student Physical Activity (PA)?

Viable options include before and after school programs, recess, activity during other academic classes, on-site intramurals, as well as myriad activities off campus after school. Programs such as these are components of a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP). They include quality PE as the foundation, as well as PA opportunities before, during, and after school, staff involvement, and family and community engagement.* The whole package helps keep our children active and fit. Like SPARK Principal Thom McKenzie likes to say, “It takes a village to raise an active child.”

Teaming up for PA!

No one person or entity is responsible for our kids’ health. When everyone does their part and students are supported with PA choices in all sorts of environments, they are much more likely to participate and achieve their 60 minutes or more. And every type of activity “counts” towards the 60 (e.g., walking to school, climbing on the jungle gym, having activity breaks during class, dancing in PE, playing tag at recess, running in a running club, playing intramurals after school).You want your kids to have so many opportunities they can’t help but find activities they love to do and to do them often!

What resources are available?

Let’s Move! Active Schools provides free and low-cost resources to help schools incorporate physical activity before, during, and after school for at least 60 minutes a day.  SPARK is an official supporting organization of Let’s Move! Active Schools and encourages schools to sign up to be an Active School.  Learn more here.  

How can SPARK help you and your students reach the 60 minute goal?

Quality Physical Education – Sadly, many PE programs are not active enough – ironic right? Yet studies show students may spend a good chunk of class time waiting their turn for a chance just to touch the equipment (as in relays) or sitting on the sidelines because they got “out” (elimination games) or simply waiting for someone to pass the ball to them (large-group games). PE classes full of these practices often engage students in MVPA for only a short amount of time. SPARK PE (K-2, 3-6, MS, and HS) offers teachers quality PE programs that in turn provide students many opportunities to participate and practice skills. Research shows SPARK PE engages students in MVPA at least 50% of class time, addresses National Standards, aligns assessment with instruction, and regularly promotes out-of-class physical activity. Students become more active and more skilled when they have SPARK PE. When taught daily, students can receive nearly half of their recommended minutes of PA with SPARK PE alone!

During academic classes – Because students often sit for hours at a time during classes, activity breaks are a must! They help not only by adding minutes of PA, but they have been shown to enhance academic performance. The SPARKabc’s program provides numerous activities to be used as breaks during classroom time as well as activities which integrate academic topics to help “anchor” learning and make it more active and fun. SPARK provides sample SPARKabc’s lessons to give you a taste of what our ASAP movement breaks and academically focused activities look like. They’re easy to teach, easy to learn, fun and effective. SPARK PE (K-2 and 3-6) programs also include multiple limited space activities that classroom teachers can use as activity breaks throughout the day.

During Recess – Recess has potential to be either very active or very sedentary. Depending upon students’ preferences, they might choose to play an active soccer or basketball game or to sit and chat with a friend while eating their snacks. Even if they join what appears to be an active game, they may spend most of their time waiting in line for their turn at wall ball, tetherball, kickback, 2-touch, etc. Frankly, they may get most of their activity jumping up and down cheering for the kids who are playing! Both SPARK K-2 and 3-6 PE programs include Recess Activities sections with ideas for inclusive, enjoyable, and ACTIVE games. SPARKabc’s also provides resources for recess staff looking to improve activity opportunities for all elementary age students. Here’s a sample recess activity that can be played as is, or modified to match your students and setting. Try it and tell us what you think!

Before and After School – Students who attend before and/or after school programs can receive a large percentage of their daily MVPA during structured and/or non-structured activities. Again, as in recess, activities need to be structured in such a way to increase activity levels and to have positive effects. There are many issues to consider with running a quality program that addresses a wide range of ages, group-sizes and skill levels, commonly have a lack of equipment and limited space, as well as high staff-to-student ratios. SPARK’s After School program (which actually targets all out-of-school PA programs, not just those done after school) has been found effective in increasing PA for children and adolescents ages 5-14. It has hundreds of suggestions for addressing many of the concerns typically encountered in these types of programs.

At the end of the day, students CAN reach the goal of 60 minutes or more of MVPA. It’s a matter of structuring your environment to encourage PA. By providing safe places to play, programs that promote movement throughout the day, equipment to complement those programs, and trained staff to lead them, your students will have met or exceeded the 60 min. goal for now, as well as learned the skills to continue to do so for a lifetime!

*(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs: A Guide for Schools. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2013)

Learn More:

Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs: A Guide for Schools

Let’s Move! Active Schools

Free SPARK webinar!

Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs

Resources for Integrating Physical Activity Throughout the School Day

May 7, 2014 @ 3pm Pacific (6pm Eastern) – Register Here

Advocating for Physical Education and Student Health

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on much these days, but that doesn’t stop hundreds of people from going on “The Hill” to advocate for quality physical education.  And, it seems to be working!  Advocacy has helped provide federal funding for physical education and other important public health initiatives.

Two major organizations advocating for physical education are the Sport and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) and AAHPERD (soon to be called SHAPE America).

The SFIA National Health through Fitness Day brings together approximately 150 leaders and 15-20 sports celebrities such as Herschel Walker, Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, Peyton Manning, and Tim Brown, to fight for the Carol M. White Physical Education Act (PEP).  Many physical educators and sporting goods companies have no idea how hard this group works to provide the only federal funding for physical education.  Until you have been in a back room with Gary Player and hear the level of conversations with a Speaker of the House, it is hard to imagine all of the work, money and time that goes into keeping PEP grants funded and safe.

Last week, SPARK was on the Hill with SFIA and the celebrities showcasing quality physical education with local DC Public School (a SPARK district) students.  We are proud to be sponsors and participants of this important advocacy day.  And, if you haven’t seen the video of Herschel Walker doing a SPARK dance with the students yet, click here. This video has had over 1,600 views on Facebook! You can view more photos of the event on the SPARK Facebook page.

SPARK is in DC again this week for National Speak Out! Day hosted by AAHPERD. National Speak Out! Day provides a venue that encourages all of its members to be strong advocates for the profession and for children.  AAHPERD members, sponsors, and associates storm the Hill to meet with their district or state representatives and share with them firsthand what is going on in their home towns.  They share personal experiences, unintended consequences, successes, and possible solutions.  Members advocate for PEP funding and other critical educational issues like educating the whole child.  Educating legislators on quality physical education is essential to making an impact on the national policy landscape.

We all have to do our part to help policy makers understand the benefits of quality, daily physical education taught by credentialed specialists.  We need YOU (teachers, administrators, parents, wellness professionals, etc.) to advocate on the Hill and/or your local governing bodies (School Board and State Legislators). Won’t you join us?

Here are some helpful hints:

  • Make them smart, before you make them mad: Share the full truth, even if some of it is bad.  You can advocate year-round by sharing issues on student health (obesity) in your district.  Share the facts and results from your testing, especially now with student growth evaluations.  You don’t always have to ask for something to advocate, as a matter of fact, true advocacy is not asking, but educating! We want decision makers to know the facts about your program and school district to help them make decisions.  This gains their trust.
  • Make friends before you need them: Provide success stories from your school and share them with your representatives.  Send letters about your school that showcase the positive things you are doing with students.  SPARK salutes all of these organizations and others who work hard on behalf of quality physical education programs and their teachers.
  • Support your friends: Help friends who are advocating on your behalf.  Especially AAHPERD and SFIA in their efforts on the national level, however, there are many others including state and local supporters you have and may not know.  Seek them out and support them.  Visit their websites and send letters.

SPARK is excited to actively support initiatives that support quality, daily physical education taught by credentialed specialists.  Here are a few relevant examples.

1. Recently, publicity around the First Lady’s Lets Move! initiative has sparked enough interest that Let’s Move! Active Schools was created.  This brought together organizations across sectors to increase physical activity in schools.  SPARK signed on and is a supporting organization for Lets Move! Active Schools. We are excited and motivated to have pledged at least 800 schools to sign up and increase physical activity during school!

2. SPARK attended both SFIA and AAHPERD days on the Hill again this year, and plan to go every year!  We sponsor and assist in demonstrations to showcase quality physical education.  We speak to Legislators about what quality physical education looks like and how important it is.  We provide success stories and call on them throughout the year through sign on letters and other advocacy efforts they provide.

3. SPARK feels so strongly about this, we created an Advocacy section on our website (under Resources).  This page will assist you by providing videos, tools, links, and ideas on how to advocate for physical education and wellness programs.  Please visit our advocacy page at http://www.sparkpe.org/physical-education-resources/advocacy/

SPARK is much more than our researched-based programs.  SPARK is proud to invest money, staff and time to advocate for policies that support quality, daily physical education for all!

So, won’t you join us in advocating for physical education and student health?

Support PEP Button


Schooling, Health and Youth Development – What is Necessary?

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Schooling, Health and Youth Development – What is Necessary?

Provided by ASCD Whole Child Programs · www.ascd.org · www.wholechildeducation.org

Over the past few years, ASCD authors have penned a number of articles about the need for schools, educators and policymakers to focus on the health and well-being of their students. Not just for the sake of their health and well-being (if that shouldn’t be enough on its own) but also to support effective teaching and learning.

Here are just a few selections to read and share:

Physical Activity

Integrating Movement Roundup

Ensuring a high-quality physical education program is important. Equally important is ensuring that students are active across the school day and not just in PE class. Research shows that kids who are physically active are not only healthier, but also likely to perform better academically; and short activity breaks during the school day can improve concentration and behavior and enhance learning

Play and Recess

Playing a Game Is the Voluntary Attempt to Overcome Unnecessary Obstacles

Last month we ran the theme of integrating movement throughout the school day (and outside of physical education classes). Obviously one place where this should be a no-brainer is recess. But it’s been scary seeing how many schools and districts have been cutting back on recess time to either provide enrichment classes or add additional academic study time into the school day.

Investing in Healthy Recess to Nurture the Whole Child

A healthy, positive school environment transcends what goes on in the classroom. In fact, what happens at recess holds a crucial key to developing the whole child. A school that provides time and space for students to run, talk, and play helps ensure every child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. Experience and research tell us that active students learn better, and daily recess is proven to help students focus in the classroom.

Does Better Recess Equal a Better School Day?

In a new study released Tuesday, Mathematica Policy Research and the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University rigorously evaluated the Playworks program and found that it improved outcomes in the areas of school climate, conflict resolution and aggression, physical activity, and learning and academic performance.

Nutrition

Reducing the Effects of Child Poverty

In today’s global economic state, many families and children face reduced circumstances. The 2008 economic crisis became a “household crisis” (PDF) when higher costs for basic goods, fewer jobs and reduced wages, diminished assets and reduced access to credit, and reduced access to public goods and services affected families who coped, in part, by eating fewer and less nutritious meals, spending less on education and health care, and pulling children out of school to work or help with younger siblings. These “new poor” join those who were vulnerable prior to the financial shocks and economic downturn.

No Child Should Grow Up Hungry

We are proud to welcome Share Our Strength as a whole child partner. Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign aims to end childhood hunger in the United States. It connects kids in need with nutritious food and teaches their families how to cook healthy, affordable meals. The campaign also engages the public to make ending childhood hunger a national priority.

Mental Health

Best Questions: Mental Health

More than 20 years ago, I spent one school year as the full-time school counselor in an early childhood center in Washington, D.C. Our enrollment was 250 full-day preK and kindergarten students in an old, huge brick building with 20-foot high ceilings and massive center courtyard-like hallways. I spent the year in easily washable clothes and with my hair in a ponytail at all times because, as anyone who has ever worked in early childhood can tell you, fancy clothes and fancy hair don’t mix well with peanut butter and finger paint.

A Health Iceberg

I use these slides often when discussing health. It starts with the tenets, becomes a pyramid, and then ends with what I call a “health iceberg.” Let me show you what I mean.

The common thread through all of these articles is that health and well-being matter and they determine how well we learn, grow and achieve. Health and education are symbiotic. What affects one affects the other. The healthy child learns better just as the educated child leads a healthier life. Similarly, a healthier environment—physically as well as socially-emotionally—provides for more effective teaching and learning.

To learn more about ASCD and Whole Child Education, visit the links below.

www.ascd.org

www.wholechildeducation.org

Healthy & Easy Recipe for National Nutrition Month

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Healthy, Easy and Kid-Friendly Recipe for National Nutrition Month

Provided by our Nutrition Services partner, Healthy Kids Challenge

This Apple Almond Salad recipe is easy to use when teaching kids about healthy habits, and easy for them to learn some basic kitchen skills, too! At a school or community program (or even at home) use this activity to challenge kids to learn about what they taste. It works with many fruit & veggie-based recipes, but our favorite is this apple-almond salad!

Apple Almond Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes Serves: 8 servings or 32 (½ cup serving) tasting samples

  • 1 cup non-fat, bottled raspberry vinaigrette
  • 8 small apples, diced
  • 1 cup Craisins® or other dried fruit bits
  • 1 cup chopped almonds
  • 8 cups bagged, pre-cut mixed greens

Directions

1. In advance, rinse and drain the apples and mixed greens.

2. In a large salad bowl, add the ingredients and toss gently.

3. Serve ½ cup tasting samples on small plates with a fork.

4. Clean work area and utensils with warm soapy water. Rinse with clean water.

Per full-size serving (1 3/4 cups): 221 Calories, 5.2g Pro, 5.9g Fat, 24% Calories from Fat

Recipe Source: (Modified) Education.com-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 6/11.

Taste and Learn Activity

Materials: MyPlate symbol

1. Fill half of a standard size meal plate with salad and explain it represents the fruits and veggies of the MyPlate symbol.

2. Discuss how eating that amount at meals helps kids get their suggested daily servings of fiber.

3. Ask kids to think of the fruits/veggies they ate yesterday.

4. Did the amount they ate fill half a plate? Have them draw a representation of their plate.

5. Ask kids to create a menu using the recipe and the other MyPlate food groups (grains, protein and dairy).

6. Have them create a grocery list for their menu.

At home, parents can empower kids to get involved too!

  • Allow kids to help create the grocery list
  • Parents and kids go grocery shopping together
  • Kids make the meal with parents and eat together

Download parent tip sheets to reinforce the messaging here:

Fruits & Veggies – Every Day the Tasty Way “Fruits & Veggies, Cool Foods”

Fruits & Veggies – Enjoy the Taste, Herbs & Spices Add Pizazz to Fruits & Veggies

Visit the Healthy Kids Challenge blog for more “Taste and Learn” Recipes, including the Turkey Veggie Wrap and a Yummy Fruit Combo!

Heart-Healthy Ingredients to Pack in Your Children’s Lunchboxes

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
In honor of American Heart Month, we’ve been covering some matters of the heart, including how to promote heart health in our children. Today, we’re talking about packing heart-healthy lunches to fuel their minds, bodies, and spirits all throughout the school day.
Check out these 10 ingredients to rotate through your child’s lunchbox to keep their tickers in tip-top shape.
Fruits and Veggies
An absolute must for a heart-healthy meal, fruits and veggies should take up the most tummy space.
Apples
There really is truth to the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are high in fiber and vitamin C and contain lots of potassium, too. And they taste great and fulfill that need for something crunchy and sweet.
Bonus tips: Pre-sliced apples are perfect for little hands. To make lunch prep a breeze, invest in an apple slicer ($5-10 online and in various stores). Put apple slices in a baggie or reusable container with some lemon or lime juice to keep them tasting fresh and from turning brown.
Bananas
Another good one for the lunchbox is the banana. Like apples, they have lots of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. Unlike the apple, you can have a good bit of fun pretending to be a monkey while you munch your lunch.
Oranges
Lower in calories than apples and bananas, oranges are loaded with vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. They’re also a good alternative for kids who prefer their fruit sliced and peeled for them. Unlike apples and bananas, they don’t turn that “icky” brown color when sliced before serving.
Pears
Higher in vitamin C than a banana and more fiber and potassium than an apple, pears are another crunchy, sweet alternative for the healthy lunchbox crowd. Pears are also slightly softer and easier to chew than apples, which can be a mouth-pleaser for younger children.
Baby Carrots
These little orange beauties are chockablock full of vitamin A and are fun to eat both plain and with a healthy dip (see recipe below!). Skip the chips and dip these babies! Crunchy, sweet, and oh-so-good for you, too.
Broccoli
Raw, one cup of broccoli florets contains almost as much vitamin C as an orange. If your kids prefer cooked broccoli, lightly steam the florets and then chill them in the fridge. Steaming takes away some of the bite of raw broccoli and makes it easier for picky eaters to get their much-needed greens.
Cherry or Grape Tomatoes
Full of vitamin C and really fun to pop in your mouth, tiny tomatoes make another excellent lunchbox add. Pair them up with a tasty yogurt dip and you double the fun and the taste.
Protein and Fat
Two very important nutrients to pack in the lunchbox are protein and fat. While fat in general doesn’t have the best reputation, healthy amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat are integral to a heart-healthy diet. Try these ingredients:
Low-fat cheese
No need to go overboard, but a serving-sized wedge of a tasty low-fat cheese gives your child protein, calcium, and a yummy lunch all in one.
Tuna
Skip the overly processed lunchmeats and go for heart-healthy tuna instead, which offers protein and the healthy fats mentioned above. If your child isn’t a fan of fish, choose the least-processed lunch meats possible or bake and slice free-range chicken and turkey breasts for delicious homemade sandwiches.
Tip: Choose only 100% whole grain bread made with the least ingredients possible. Skip brands that include extra sugar in their recipe, or go all-in and make your own bread.
Unsalted and/or Raw Nuts and Seeds
Whether it’s a serving of sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, or other wonderful crunchies, nuts and seeds add protein, healthy fats and variety to any school lunch box. Remember those apples, bananas, and pears from above? Wholesome peanut butter (the only ingredient you need is peanuts!) with a sprinkle of cinnamon makes for a tasty treat.
Whole Grains
We can’t forget the benefits of wholesome whole grains! Avoid processed flour products and go for 100% whole grain items that maintain the healthy components of the grain.
Crunchy breadsticks
Forget the high-fat, high-sodium chips, pretzels, and crackers. Pack yummy, crunchy homemade breadsticks instead. (If following this recipe, skip the all-purpose flour and use 100% whole wheat only. Choose a whole wheat baking flour, which will maintain a lighter, more pleasing texture.) Thick and chewy or thin and crispy, the choice is yours. Flavor them with herbs, garlic and onion, cinnamon, fruit—anything your kids like. Some homemade tomato sauce provides a yummy and heart-healthy dip on the side.
Brown Rice, Quinoa, or Oatmeal
These wholesome whole grains can be flavored any way you like them and fill up little tummies with fiber that keeps them energized all day long.
Healthy Yogurt Dip Recipe
Ingredients:
1 cup plain Greek yogurt like Fage (wholesome Greek yogurt has no extra sugar and lots of healthy protein)
1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion
3 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill (or use dried dill, but less)
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
It’s so easy—just mix everything in a small bowl and chill overnight. Store the dip in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.
Giving your kids healthy, appetizing choices for their lunchboxes ensures that they’re receiving support for healthy eating habits even when they are away from home. Some other good-for-you lunch choices are hard-boiled eggs, unsalted popcorn, and raisins/other no-sugar-added dried fruits.
And don’t forget to help quench little thirsts. Good choices for a reusable water bottle are unsweetened juice, water, and milk (add a little wholesome cocoa powder and vanilla extract for a chocolaty treat).
Lunch time doesn’t have to be boring, unhealthy, or stick to the same old routine. Give your kids a heart-healthy treasure chest of goodies they’ll be excited to munch on every day. While you’re at it, pack these wholesome ingredients in your own lunch, too!

In honor of American Heart Month, we’ve been covering some matters of the heart, including how to promote heart health in our children. Today, we’re talking about packing heart-healthy lunches to fuel their minds, bodies, and spirits all throughout the school day.

Check out these 10 ingredients to rotate through your child’s lunchbox to keep their tickers in tip-top shape.

Fruits and Veggies

An absolute must for a heart-healthy meal, fruits and veggies should take up the most tummy space.

Apples

There really is truth to the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are high in fiber and vitamin C and contain lots of potassium, too. And they taste great and fulfill that need for something crunchy and sweet.

Bonus tips: Pre-sliced apples are perfect for little hands. To make lunch prep a breeze, invest in an apple slicer ($5-10 online and in various stores). Put apple slices in a baggie or reusable container with some lemon or lime juice to keep them tasting fresh and from turning brown.

Bananas

Another good one for the lunchbox is the banana. Like apples, they have lots of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. Unlike the apple, you can have a good bit of fun pretending to be a monkey while you munch your lunch.

Oranges

Lower in calories than apples and bananas, oranges are loaded with vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. They’re also a good alternative for kids who prefer their fruit sliced and peeled for them. Unlike apples and bananas, they don’t turn that “icky” brown color when sliced before serving.

Pears

Higher in vitamin C than a banana and more fiber and potassium than an apple, pears are another crunchy, sweet alternative for the healthy lunchbox crowd. Pears are also slightly softer and easier to chew than apples, which can be a mouth-pleaser for younger children.

Baby Carrots

These little orange beauties are chockablock full of vitamin A and are fun to eat both plain and with a healthy dip (see recipe below!). Skip the chips and dip these babies! Crunchy, sweet, and oh-so-good for you, too.

Broccoli

Raw, one cup of broccoli florets contains almost as much vitamin C as an orange. If your kids prefer cooked broccoli, lightly steam the florets and then chill them in the fridge. Steaming takes away some of the bite of raw broccoli and makes it easier for picky eaters to get their much-needed greens.

Cherry or Grape Tomatoes

Full of vitamin C and really fun to pop in your mouth, tiny tomatoes make another excellent lunchbox add. Pair them up with a tasty yogurt dip and you double the fun and the taste.

Protein and Fat

Two very important nutrients to pack in the lunchbox are protein and fat. While fat in general doesn’t have the best reputation, healthy amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat are integral to a heart-healthy diet. Try these ingredients:

Low-fat cheese

No need to go overboard, but a serving-sized wedge of a tasty low-fat cheese gives your child protein, calcium, and a yummy lunch all in one.

Tuna

Skip the overly processed lunchmeats and go for heart-healthy tuna instead, which offers protein and the healthy fats mentioned above. If your child isn’t a fan of fish, choose the least-processed lunch meats possible or bake and slice free-range chicken and turkey breasts for delicious homemade sandwiches.

Tip: Choose only 100% whole grain bread made with the least ingredients possible. Skip brands that include extra sugar in their recipe, or go all-in and make your own bread.

Unsalted and/or Raw Nuts and Seeds

Whether it’s a serving of sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, or other wonderful crunchies, nuts and seeds add protein, healthy fats and variety to any school lunch box. Remember those apples, bananas, and pears from above? Wholesome peanut butter (the only ingredient you need is peanuts!) with a sprinkle of cinnamon makes for a tasty treat.

Whole Grains

We can’t forget the benefits of wholesome whole grains! Avoid processed flour products and go for 100% whole grain items that maintain the healthy components of the grain.

Crunchy breadsticks

Forget the high-fat, high-sodium chips, pretzels, and crackers. Pack yummy, crunchy homemade breadsticks instead. (If following this recipe, skip the all-purpose flour and use 100% whole wheat only. Choose a whole wheat baking flour, which will maintain a lighter, more pleasing texture.) Thick and chewy or thin and crispy, the choice is yours. Flavor them with herbs, garlic and onion, cinnamon, fruit—anything your kids like. Some homemade tomato sauce provides a yummy and heart-healthy dip on the side.

Brown Rice, Quinoa, or Oatmeal

These wholesome whole grains can be flavored any way you like them and fill up little tummies with fiber that keeps them energized all day long.

Healthy Yogurt Dip Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt like Fage (wholesome Greek yogurt has no extra sugar and lots of healthy protein)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion
  • 3 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill (or use dried dill, but less)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

It’s so easy—just mix everything in a small bowl and chill overnight. Store the dip in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.

Giving your kids healthy, appetizing choices for their lunchboxes ensures that they’re receiving support for healthy eating habits even when they are away from home. Some other good-for-you lunch choices are hard-boiled eggs, unsalted popcorn, and raisins/other no-sugar-added dried fruits.

And don’t forget to help quench little thirsts. Good choices for a reusable water bottle are unsweetened juice, water, and milk (add a little wholesome cocoa powder and vanilla extract for a chocolaty treat).

Lunch time doesn’t have to be boring, unhealthy, or stick to the same old routine. Give your kids a heart-healthy treasure chest of goodies they’ll be excited to munch on every day. While you’re at it, pack these wholesome ingredients in your own lunch, too!