Posts Tagged ‘healthy kids challenge’


Tips for Heart-Healthy Children and Families

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014
February is American Heart Month, and we want to take some time to focus on how parents can promote their children’s heart health.
When it comes to raising healthy children, efforts should start at home, with parents and other immediate family members that have so much impact on kids during their formative years. The efforts extend into the community, where school officials, coaches, and so on help mold the youth into healthy, responsible adults. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child, and when we work together everybody wins.
Keep reading for some tips you can implement at home to help your children create heart-healthy habits.
Making Time for Healthy Habits
The first step is to make time to incorporate healthy habits. And while it seems like there already aren’t enough hours in the day, the secret is that you don’t have to find more time—you replace time spent on not-so-healthy habits with time spent on better-for-you ones. Try these ideas:
Schedule TV and Other Types of Screen Time
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than two years old have no screen time and older kids have one to two hours of screen time per day with high-quality content. But children now spend an average of 7 hours per day in front of the TV, iPad, laptop, and/or gaming system.
One way to cut back is to schedule screen time. Try these:
Make a list of the family’s must-see programs—these are the ones you can watch together or separately, but do keep the list to a minimum.
Turn the TV only on a few minutes prior to the start of the shows, and turn it off immediately after. No channel surfing, no mindless watching.
Schedule a game night or award “time tickets” to allow your kids to get their video game fix without spending endless hours glued to the screen and controllers.
Track Your Meals
How often do you stop at the drive-through on your way to or from activities? You may not realize just how often you grab dinner to go or reach for processed convenience items unless you keep track for a couple of weeks.
The problem is that most of these items contain overly processed simple carbohydrates (such as sugar and flour) and oils high in omega-6 fatty acids (like sunflower, soybean, and corn oil)—huge culprits of inflammation. While the debate of whether inflammation or cholesterol is the direct cause of heart disease is still in progress, it is certainly a big cardiovascular health risk factor.
Curb fast food eating, and learn how to make better choices when hitting the drive thru window.
Making healthy meals at home is easier than you think. For example, heart-healthy meals can be slow-cooked in a crockpot so they are ready when you are, you can make homemade freezer meals that just need to be popped in the oven.
Replace certain ingredients in your pantry. Rather than all-purpose white flour, go with 100% whole wheat baking flour and flour products. Instead of butter, shortening, and margarine, try extra-virgin olive oil, which features heart-healthy fatty acids. Instead of canned or jarred fruits, choose fresh or frozen. Instead of sugary sodas and juices, try mixing 100% juice with water—even a splash makes for a refreshing treat.
Track Your Time
Being constantly on the go is stressful for you and your children. Extra-curricular activities are a good thing for children, but as they say, you can have too much of a good thing. A recent NPR story highlighted the new levels of stress children and teens are experiencing today have a negative impact on health. As too much continual stress has been identified as one of the causes of heart disease, it’s imperative that families come together and decide where to cut back on obligations and commitments.
While stress management techniques, such as yoga, deep breathing, and meditation, are great, healthy activities for everyone to practice, learning where to cut back and focus energy where it really counts is the first step.
Getting More Active at Home
After creating room in your lifestyle for healthy habits, fill it with fun activities at home! Why zone out or complain about boredom when there are so many valuable and fun activities you can do at home?
Become a Clean Machine
Getting everyone involved in household tasks and chores makes the work easier, faster, and healthier. And you can even make housework more fun!
Put sticky notes on everything that needs attention: Dust me, pick me up, sweep me, clean me, etc. Then race around the house to see which family member can acquire the most sticky notes and get the job done properly.
Put some tunes on the stereo and limit each household task to a certain number of tracks—3 for washing the dishes, 2 for scrubbing the bathtub, 4 for dusting the living room, etc. Get your toes tapping and the house clean all at the same time.
Go Green in the Garden
Backyard agriculture is all the rage these days, as we have rediscovered the joys and benefits of growing our own food. Gardening is also a great way to get, and stay, active. Those seeds and plants need planting, watering, weeding, and tending to. The fruits of your labor need to be harvested and prepared for storage and meals. Branching out to incorporate backyard chickens, rabbits, or other small livestock creates another dimension to your activity (and learning) time.
Besides the boost in physical activity, growing your own food is often healthier, cheaper, and more fulfilling than relying on the grocery store.
Take a hike
Or walk the dog, visit the neighborhood park or playground, play some hoops, go for a swim, set up the net and have a rousing game of volleyball in the backyard, and so on. Just get outside and get moving! Turning a lazy Saturday, Sunday, or weekday evening into a fun activity builds heart health, good habits, and memories, all of which can last a lifetime.
Doing What You Can
The easiest and most effective way to develop healthier habits as a family is by taking it one step at a time. No one said you had to do it all at once or all by the end of the month. Just start. Do what you can, when you can. Grow from there. When built upon and sustained over time, these habits will evolve into a full-blown heart-healthy lifestyle that will last you and your children a lifetime.

February is American Heart Month, and we want to take some time to focus on how parents can promote their children’s heart health.

When it comes to raising healthy children, efforts should start at home, with parents and other immediate family members that have so much impact on kids during their formative years. The efforts extend into the community, where school officials, coaches, and so on help mold the youth into healthy, responsible adults. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child, and when we work together everybody wins.

Keep reading for some tips you can implement at home to help your children create heart-healthy habits.=

Making Time for Healthy Habits

The first step is to make time to incorporate healthy habits. And while it seems like there already aren’t enough hours in the day, the secret is that you don’t have to find more time—you replace time spent on not-so-healthy habits with time spent on better-for-you ones. Try these ideas:

Schedule TV and Other Types of Screen Time

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than two years old have no screen time and older kids have one to two hours of screen time per day with high-quality content. But children now spend an average of 7 hours per day in front of the TV, iPad, laptop, and/or gaming system.

One way to cut back is to schedule screen time. Try these:

  • Make a list of the family’s must-see programs—these are the ones you can watch together or separately, but do keep the list to a minimum.
  • Turn the TV only on a few minutes prior to the start of the shows, and turn it off immediately after. No channel surfing, no mindless watching.
  • Schedule a game night or award “time tickets” to allow your kids to get their video game fix without spending endless hours glued to the screen and controllers.

Track Your Meals

How often do you stop at the drive-through on your way to or from activities? You may not realize just how often you grab dinner to go or reach for processed convenience items unless you keep track for a couple of weeks.

The problem is that most of these items contain overly processed simple carbohydrates (such as sugar and flour) and oils high in omega-6 fatty acids (like sunflower, soybean, and corn oil)—huge culprits of inflammation. While the debate of whether inflammation or cholesterol is the direct cause of heart disease is still in progress, it is certainly a big cardiovascular health risk factor.

  • Curb fast food eating, and learn how to make better choices when hitting the drive thru window.
  • Making healthy meals at home is easier than you think. For example, heart-healthy meals can be slow-cooked in a crockpot so they are ready when you are, you can make homemade freezer meals that just need to be popped in the oven.
  • Replace certain ingredients in your pantry. Rather than all-purpose white flour, go with 100% whole wheat baking flour and flour products. Instead of butter, shortening, and margarine, try extra-virgin olive oil, which features heart-healthy fatty acids. Instead of canned or jarred fruits, choose fresh or frozen. Instead of sugary sodas and juices, try mixing 100% juice with water—even a splash makes for a refreshing treat.

Track Your Time

Being constantly on the go is stressful for you and your children. Extra-curricular activities are a good thing for children, but as they say, you can have too much of a good thing. A recent NPR story highlighted the new levels of stress children and teens are experiencing today have a negative impact on health. As too much continual stress has been identified as one of the causes of heart disease, it’s imperative that families come together and decide where to cut back on obligations and commitments.

While stress management techniques, such as yoga, deep breathing, and meditation, are great, healthy activities for everyone to practice, learning where to cut back and focus energy where it really counts is the first step.

Getting More Active at Home

After creating room in your lifestyle for healthy habits, fill it with fun activities at home! Why zone out or complain about boredom when there are so many valuable and fun activities you can do at home?

Become a Clean Machine

Getting everyone involved in household tasks and chores makes the work easier, faster, and healthier. And you can even make housework more fun!

  • Put sticky notes on everything that needs attention: Dust me, pick me up, sweep me, clean me, etc. Then race around the house to see which family member can acquire the most sticky notes and get the job done properly.
  • Put some tunes on the stereo and limit each household task to a certain number of tracks—3 for washing the dishes, 2 for scrubbing the bathtub, 4 for dusting the living room, etc. Get your toes tapping and the house clean all at the same time.

Go Green in the Garden

Backyard agriculture is all the rage these days, as we have rediscovered the joys and benefits of growing our own food. Gardening is also a great way to get, and stay, active. Those seeds and plants need planting, watering, weeding, and tending to. The fruits of your labor need to be harvested and prepared for storage and meals. Branching out to incorporate backyard chickens, rabbits, or other small livestock creates another dimension to your activity (and learning) time.

Besides the boost in physical activity, growing your own food is often healthier, cheaper, and more fulfilling than relying on the grocery store.

Take a hike

Or walk the dog, visit the neighborhood park or playground, play some hoops, go for a swim, set up the net and have a rousing game of volleyball in the backyard, and so on. Just get outside and get moving! Turning a lazy Saturday, Sunday, or weekday evening into a fun activity builds heart health, good habits, and memories, all of which can last a lifetime.

Doing What You Can

The easiest and most effective way to develop healthier habits as a family is by taking it one step at a time. No one said you had to do it all at once or all by the end of the month. Just start. Do what you can, when you can. Grow from there. When built upon and sustained over time, these habits will evolve into a full-blown heart-healthy lifestyle that will last you and your children a lifetime.

Healthy Eating Tip Sheets for Parents

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Guest Blog Post from our Nutrition Education Partner, Healthy Kids Challenge (HKC):

Childhood obesity statistics are alarming. Our Nutrition Education Partner Healthy Kids Challenge (HKC) challenges you to go beyond a focus on the obesity problem and Take Action with simple solutions that can help improve health for ALL kids and their families.

Use HKC healthy tips, newsletter, E-Challenge, toolkits, and programs to create or improve school, organization, and community policies and practices that support healthy food choices and physical activity.  Download their newest Health and Nutrition Parent Tip Sheet: “Fruits & Veggies – Every Day the Tasty Way”.

Come back for another new tip sheet the first week of every month. Enjoy these simple solutions to better health! Visit the online store for the whole set (18) of Healthy6 parent tip sheets!

For more information on our partner Healthy Kids Challenge Click Here

Fueling Student Success with Food and Fitness

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Brain breaks for better focus and concentration…

Healthy eating messages sprinkled throughout the school hallways, cafeteria, and classrooms…

Nutrition education woven into PE and core curriculum K-12…

Where is this happening? Check out West Orange, New Jersey school district!

“Teaching our students to maintain a healthy balance with eating and exercise is our top priority. The SPARK program is helping provide the tools and training to achieve this goal”, shared Corinn Giaquinto, Health and Physical Education instructor, Thomas Edison Middle School, West Orange, New Jersey.

Hats off to Thomas A. Edison Middle School and their entire school district in West Orange. The district has been using SPARK in their physical education department for some time and recently received a grant from Mountainside Health Foundation to fuel student success by adding nutrition education.

Vickie L. James, Registered Dietitian and Director of Healthy Kids Challenge (HKC), the exclusive nutrition education partner for SPARK, was the trainer for the West Orange training, the first ever SPARK and HKC nutrition education training.

“From classroom to PE to wellness council members K-12, the representation and enthusiasm shown at the workshop tells me the commitment this district has to student wellbeing. They truly understand the strategy of using good nutrition and physical activity to create a culture of health in the schools that can do nothing short of fueling student success. This was the first of many great moments down the road for West Orange Schools.”

If your school district is ready to accelerate student achievement by combining physical activity and nutrition education, contact SPARK today. Full day SPARK/HKC nutrition education trainings as well as a new nutrition curriculum in three grade ranges, K-2, 3-5, and 6-8 all are available through SPARK.  Healthy Kids Challenge trainings are tailored to meet school needs for successful implementation of realistic wellness policies, school improvement plans, and TEAM Nutrition guidelines. And SPARK/HKC help you achieve the required criteria for the HealthierUS School Challenge program.

The HKC curriculum, Balance My Day, was developed to align with all HECAT (Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool) standards for nutrition education. This is a new requirement for PEP grant awardees and you won’t find many nutrition education programs that address it.

Stay tuned for exciting happenings and updates from West Orange schools! SPARK and HKC wish them well in their commitment to student health!

Q&A with Healthy Kids Challenge- Part 3

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

The U.S. Surgeon General and First Lady are challenging our nation to eat healthy and get more physical activity. With all of this talk about physical activity, our partner organization Healthy Kids Challenge had a few questions for us, and we thought we’d post the answers here for our SPARK family as well.

(This is part three in a three part series)

Q: What are some safety guidelines when an obese or poorly fit child is participating in PE class?

A: Before starting on any exercise program obese and poorly fit children should first be seen by a doctor. They can inform you of any limitations that may be required. Once they have the OK, students should begin in the light to moderate intensity levels, moving to moderate to vigorous levels as they gain fitness. Walking, for many obese children, is quite enough to increase their heart rate into their target heart rate zone. It is not only unnecessary, but unsafe, to require them to run any distance.

It is important for all children to participate at a level that is right for them. Start by teaching students how to take their heart rates to gauge intensity. Use their resting heart rate and age to compute their target heart rate zone between 60 and 70% of max. Train them to take their heart rate during activity to keep them from overexerting themselves. This gives them the tools they need to monitor their activity level and stay in a safe but beneficial zone.

Aside from walking, other activities they may enjoy include roller-blading, bike riding, dancing, swimming, and many more. It all depends on the student. It is important that all students, not just the obese, find activities they enjoy so they are more likely to continue them on their own. Being positive and supportive to the obese and reluctant exercisers is key to helping them get and stay motivated to be physically active.

Q: What are some fun activities that can be done for core strengthening in PE class?

A: Again, it’s important to note that not all students in your class will start (or end) at the same fitness level. For some of your students, completing a single curl-up seems a Herculean task where others may be able to do 75 full sit-ups with only minor discomfort. Be sure to provide several levels of difficulty for any activity you ask students to do. They can choose the level that is right for them. To promote greater improvements, encourage students to choose the level that is just beyond their comfort zone in order to overload their core.

The key here is to take your students’ minds off any discomfort by distracting them with bells and whistles. Below are a few activities to strengthen abdominals, obliques, and back muscles all wrapped up in a bundle of fun!

Sit-up Ball Exchange

Students are in pairs (of similar core fitness level) with 1 tossable. Partners in sit-up position facing each other, feet just touching; 1 partner holding the tossable. Both start in down position. Both come up at the same time and the tossable is tossed to the other partner. Both go down. Repeat.

Challenge: How many catches can you and your partner make in 1 minute?

Push-up Hockey

Students are in pairs (of similar core fitness level) with a hockey puck (or small tossable). Partners in push-up position (or modified) facing each other, hands 3’ from partner’s hands; 1 partner with the puck. Partner with puck tries to shoot puck between partner’s hands to score a goal. Defending partner may use 1 hand to block the puck. Alternate roles as shooter and defender.

Sit-up Hand-Off

Students are in groups of 5-8 (of mixed core fitness level) sitting in file lines, each in sit-up position (down position) with feet just beyond the head of the student in front of them. Lines radiate out from a hoop placed in the center. Place 5 tossables per group in the hoop. On signal, student closest to the hoop completes a sit-up and grabs a tossable from the hoop, then moves to the down position to hand it off to the next in line. Next in line must sit up to receive the tossable, then move to the down position to hand it off to the next in line. The tossable continues down the line until it reaches the last student who places it behind them when they are in the down position. First in line repeats the cycle directly after they have handed off the first tossable so there is very little rest before the next tossable needs to be handed back. Continue until all tossables are out of the hoop and at the end of the line, then reverse the hand-off so they are now moving forward and back to the hoop. When they are all back in the hoop a round is complete. To change it up for round 2, shift your 1st student 1 line clockwise and move them to the end of the line.

Challenges: How quickly can we all get the beanbags out of the hoop and back in again? Can we beat our time?

Boxer Kicks

Students are in pairs (of equal or mixed core fitness level). Partner A stands and Partner B lies supine, head near A’s feet, holding A’s ankles. Both A and B face the same direction. Partner B lifts both legs to 90° and A pushes them back down while B resists allowing their legs to touch the ground. Repeat until signal (30 seconds, then more as they get more fit), with Partner A pushing B’s feet off to R and L as well as straight down in random order. Reverse roles and repeat.

Challenge: How many times can you bring your feet up to your partner’s hands?

Push-up/Clap

Students are in pairs (of equal or mixed core fitness level). Partner B lies in push-up position and Partner A stands near Partner B’s head, A’s hands hanging above B’s shoulders. Partner B twists from the hips up and raises R hand up to clap A’s hands, then back to push-up position. Repeat to L side, again clapping A’s hands. Continue until signal (30 seconds, then more as they get more fit). Reverse roles and repeat.

Challenges: How many claps can you give your partner before the signal? Can you complete a push-up between each “clap” you make with your partner?

Q: When kids say their legs hurt after an active day, should I be concerned?

A: It all depends on what kind of “hurt” it is. If students are getting injured due to exercise that is too intense or contraindicated for them, you should be concerned and should make adjustments in activities. Remember, all students will come to you at different fitness levels and should therefore not all be required to participate at the same level. Try doing the exercises yourself! See how it makes your body feel. So many teachers ask students to do things they haven’t tried lately or ever. Being a good role model and participating in some fitness activities serves many purposes.

If, however, many of your students are slightly sore in the muscle groups that were used in a muscular strengthening activity the day or 2 before, that is more likely due to overloading those muscle groups and will result in gains in strength when those muscles heal and rebuild. This kind of sore is OK and completely normal. It should go away in a few days.

Let us know what you think of these question and answers! If your school needs to develop a healthier environment, together, SPARK and HKC offer an “Ignite a Healthy Environment” Program (Click here for more info).

Q & A with Healthy Kids Challenge- Part 2

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

The U.S. Surgeon General and First Lady are challenging our nation to eat healthy and get more physical activity. With all of this talk about physical activity, our partner organization Healthy Kids Challenge had a few questions for us, and we thought we’d post the answers here for our SPARK family as well.


Q: I hear about physical education and physical activity during the school day, are they the same?

A: No, they are not synonymous. “Physical Education” (PE) refers to a structured class taught by a Physical Education Specialist or Classroom Teacher (in instances where there are few or no PE Specialists) designed to address specific physical education standards (see below). Daily Physical education is recommended by many organizations, but is not required. There are minimum amounts of PE required by law in most states. “Physical activity” (PA) during the school day can include any structured or unstructured activities involving physical movement. This may include Physical Education class, recess, before and after-school programs, activity breaks in the classroom, jog-a-thons, dances, field events, etc. that take place at school before, during, and after the school day. SPARK encourages a combination of both quality physical education and physical activity opportunities through out the school day and week. We also have seen the importance of having a certified physical education specialist work as the champion for both PE and PA within their school community.

National Physical Education Standards from the National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE)

  • Standard 1: Demonstrates competency in motor skills and movement patterns needed to perform a variety of physical activities.
  • Standard 2: Demonstrates understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies, and tactics as they apply to the learning and performance of physical activities.
  • Standard 3: Participates regularly in physical activity.
  • Standard 4: Achieves and maintains a health-enhancing level of physical fitness.
  • Standard 5: Exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others in physical activity settings.
  • Standard 6: Values physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression, and/or social interaction.

Q: I would like to incorporate some physical activity into my classroom during breaks or free time, but I am at a loss! Could you give me a few ideas to use for my 5th graders?

A: Sure! There are so many things you could do with 5th graders to get them moving in the classroom throughout the day! SPARK divides these types of limited space activities into 3 categories – SPARK Space Savers, SPARK Plugs, and SPARK Anchors.

“SPARK Space Savers” are activities from the SPARK PE curriculum that can be adapted for limited space to keep students active during inclement weather or when the usual activity area is unavailable.

SPARK Space Saver Sample #1: Centipede Bucket Brigade (Click Here)

SPARK Space Saver Sample #2: Limited Space Circuit (Click Here)

SPARK Space Saver Sample #3: Grab the Apple (Click Here)

“SPARK Plugs” are used to quickly energize your students throughout the day. When students are not engaged, their brains will likely tune out within 10 minutes. Use these to promote readiness for learning, create excitement and overcome the effects of fatigue.

SPARK Plug Sample #1: Around the World (Click Here)

SPARK Plug Sample #2: Hand Pat Relay (Click Here)

SPARK Plug Sample #3: Odds and Evens (Click Here)

“SPARK Anchors” use movement to help “anchor” learning. Integrating other subjects with movement can be accomplished with minimal effort and maximum benefit. Use these samples as a guide to assist in creating additional support teaching the whole child, mind and body.

SPARK Anchor Sample #1: Odd Hops and Even Jumps (Click Here)

SPARK Anchor Sample #2: Sentence Detectives (Click Here)

Q: My child isn’t really very athletic. What is a good way to help him enjoy being active?

A: It is important to acknowledge that athletics and physical activity are not the same thing. Athletes are usually gifted with traits such as speed, agility, endurance, etc. needed to succeed in a specific sport or sports and choose to pursue that sport in a competitive forum. The rest of us non-athletes enjoy participating in all sorts of physical activities suited toward our tastes and physical attributes. These are usually done for reasons other than competition such as health, making friends, feeling good, losing weight, or just pure enjoyment among many. First thing to do is find out what your son enjoys. Is it hiking? Swimming? Dancing? Jumping on a trampoline? Bike riding? Jumping rope? Whatever it is, that is what he should be doing. To increase enjoyment during any activity, have your son play his favorite music or invite a friend to join him. Providing your son with support and encouragement will go a long way to promoting a lifetime of physical activity.

Q: Is warm-up and cool-down really necessary with exercise?

A: The safe answer is “Yes.” However, if your students have just come from recess or some other type of physical activity, your warm-up has probably been taken care of. The purpose of a warm-up is to increase blood flow to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments so they are ready for vigorous activity. This blood flow helps the body by making it more “elastic” and less likely to tear when overstretched or pushed too far too fast. If you don’t have much time for PE, have your students walk/jog to your activity area to warm them up during transition. As far as cool-down, it is not so much necessary as it is a great opportunity. During this time students can work on increasing flexibility through stretching exercises as well as bringing the body back to pre-activity levels to move back into the classroom. It is also the perfect time to have students demonstrate understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies, and tactics as they apply to the performance of physical activities done in the lesson (NASPE Standard 2).

Q: What are some good motivational tools to help fit physical activity into each day?

A: Everyone has different motivations for staying physically active, although we hope that most of those motivations are centered on personal wellness. In a school setting it is important to know that research has shown a number of benefits for including more physical activity and physical education into students’ schedules. At a minimum – more minutes for PE & PA has not been shown to decrease testing performance, and many studies suggest that students are better prepared for testing and learning after physical activity. Further, new brain research shows that aerobic conditioning is very beneficial to brain development and performance. Both California and Texas have shown a direct relationship between performance on fitness tests and academic achievement test. We’re not suggesting that Test Scores should be the primary motivation for keeping children active throughout the day. However, in most schools where we have worked – academic achievement is the still the primary indicator of a school’s success. Our core belief is that staying active and physically fit can keep students mentally and emotionally balanced as well. We strive to educate the entire child for a life of success, productivity and happiness. A life free from many of the burdens brought about by diseases caused by sedentary lifestyles.

Let us know what you think of these question and answers! If your school needs to develop a healthier environment, together, SPARK and HKC offer an “Ignite a Healthy Environment” Program (Click here for more info).

Q&A with Healthy Kids Challenge

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

January is finally here, and with it comes the usual list of well-intentioned New Years resolutions. For many of you, that means attempting to eat more nutritiously and live a healthier life, and here at SPARK we’re no different. But what about our students? Do we really believe they’re making the same healthy commitments? And if not, how can we ensure we create a healthier 2010 for them as well?

Well, we thought we’d enlist the help of our partner organization, Healthy Kids Challenge (HKC), to get some advice and answers on this topic.


Q: What evidence is out there to show why it is important to teach/promote healthy nutrition?

A: Many studies show a strong link between nutrition, physical activity, and academic success. A report from Action for Healthy Kids titled The Learning Connection is an excellent resource. (Get this version of the report as a powerpoint presentation and share it with others!) The link is just what you’d expect: Students who are well-nourished perform better, and students who are not well-nourished have weaker academic performance and score lower on standardized tests.

For example, we know research has shown increased participation in school breakfast programs is associated with increased academic test scores. In fact, eating breakfast is so important all year (not just right before testing times) that it is one of our 6 core healthy behaviors for which we’ve developed a theme, Breakfast GO Power!, and lessons/ideas for everyday fun learning.

Q: If I ask parents to bring in a healthy snack, what would be some recommendations of what they could provide?

A: First, I’d have you define for parents what is considered a “healthy snack.” Then list some healthy choices as examples. Consider getting the kids’ input – they will be more likely to eat if they’ve helped choose what is offered.

Healthy Snack How-To:

  • Choose snacks low in added fat and sugar – Think about More or Less! All foods fit when you choose MORE fruits and veggies and LESS sugary and high fat foods.
  • Recognize a healthy portion size – Check serving size on the label, and amounts of fat and sugar per serving: items should contain no more than 5 grams of fat or sugar per serving. Measure a serving to check it out!
  • Be aware of hunger levels –Are there distractions such as TV or videos while the kids will be eating? It’s easier for people of any age to keep from overeating if you eliminate distractions. Adding a little bit of protein to your snack will help kids stay full and focused.

HKC Top 10 Healthy Snack Choices
½ cup fresh fruit – with low-fat yogurt dip
½ cup vegetables – with low-fat dressing dip
5 whole grain crackers – with salsa or bean dip
1 cup whole grain cereal – with 8 oz. skim milk
3 cups popcorn – with 1 oz. nuts (10 almonds or 15 peanuts)
1 oz. low-fat cheese – with 1 thin slice lean meat and whole grain roll
8 oz. fat-free flavored yogurt – with cut-up fresh fruit added
1/3 cup low-fat cottage cheese – with pineapple chunks
1 oz. nuts (10 almonds or 15 peanuts) – with ¼ cup raisins
1 Tbsp peanut butter – with celery sticks

Q: Why is it important to eat more fruits & vegetables?

A: Less than 25% of school children (grades 9-12) and adults eat the recommended servings of fruits and veggies a day. (CDC, Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey, 2007). Obesity levels are lowest among those who have high intakes of fruits and veggies.

Eating more fruits and vegetables will ensure you get a great variety of vitamins, minerals, and fiber needed for good health. Fruits and veggies are also the only source of phytochemicals, which give them their vibrant colors, and give us special protection against diseases.

For a simple send-home activity click here and explore the “For Parents” section of our Fit and Fun Families Toolkit.

Q: Which is healthier, a burger or a salad, and why?

A: Well, it depends. We really need to look closer at serving sizes and what you might have added to them before eating them.

The burger will have more protein, but it will also have extra calories and saturated fat. Is your burger larger than ¼ lb? Does it have cheese or bacon? All of these add more calories and fat. But I put lettuce and tomato and onions on it, you say? Those healthy fixins don’t amount to even one serving of vegetables – think again.

The salad will be loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, but did you also “load” it with your favorite dressing? What about cheese, bacon bits, or croutons? If you add all these toppings, you’ve added not only calories and saturated fat, but salt as well.

Fix your salad right, or order it right, and you’ll be making the healthier choice. Get your choice of dressing on the side, and dip your fork in it before getting a bite of salad. You’ll eat less and still enjoy the flavor. Add vegetables as toppings instead of the other high-calorie choices. In this case, the salad is the healthier choice with less saturated fat and fewer calories than a quarter-pound burger. The burger, by the way, has the same amount of saturated fat as a third of a cup of ranch dressing.

Q: What is the difference between all the different types of fat (saturated, unsaturated, trans fat)?

A:
1. All fats and oils are a mixture of saturated fat and unsaturated fats.
2. Solid fats contain more saturated fats and/or trans fats than oils.
3. Oils contain more unsaturated fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Solid Fats = more saturated and/or trans fats:
Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature. Some solid fats are butter, stick margarine, and shortening. Foods high in solid fats include many cheeses, creams, ice creams, ground beef, bacon, and poultry skin. Trans fats can be found in many cakes, cookies, crackers, margarines, and microwave popcorns. Foods containing partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils usually contain trans fats.

Oils = more unsaturated fats:
Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature, high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and low in saturated fats. Some common oils are canola oil, corn oil, and olive oil. Foods that are mainly oil include mayonnaise, salad dressings, and soft (tub or squeeze) margarine with no trans fats.

Choose Oils
Saturated fats and trans fats tend to raise LDL “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood, which in turn increases the risk for heart disease. To lower risk for heart disease, cut back on foods containing saturated fats and trans fats.

Most of the fats you eat should be polyunsaturated (PUFA) or monounsaturated (MUFA) fats. Fish, nut, and vegetable oils are the major source of MUFAs and PUFAs in the diet. These oils do not raise LDL “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood. PUFAs contain some fatty acids that are necessary for health—called “essential fatty acids.” In addition, oils are the major source of vitamin E in typical American diets.

For more information, visit www.mypyramid.gov.

Q: What does vitamin A do for you?

A: Vitamin A is essential for healthy eyes, healthy skin, and keeping your immune system strong. It is an essential nutrient, meaning your body cannot create it, so you must get it from your diet. Dark green and orange veggies have the highest vitamin A content. Choose these: broccoli, spinach, collard greens, mango, carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin.

Q: Why are some people allergic to nuts?

A: First you need to understand some allergy basics. I have an excellent resource to recommend for the answer you need, which is KidsHealth.org. According to them, “ An allergic reaction happens when someone’s immune system mistakenly believes that something harmless, such as a tree nut or peanut, is actually harmful. The immune system responds by creating specific antibodies to proteins in that food.” The following link will explain allergies, and also go into nut allergies in particular. If you need more information, let me know!
Click Here.

Q: When purchasing bread, what should you look for?

A:

  • Whole Grains on the ingredient list.
    • The key word is “whole”. It must say “whole wheat flour”, for example. Words such as “enriched wheat flour” and just “wheat flour” indicate it is NOT whole grain.
    • The first ingredient listed is present in the largest amount. If the first ingredient doesn’t have the word “whole” included, then it is not truly a whole grain bread. The front of the package may claim “made with whole grains”, but read the ingredient list carefully!
  • Calories, serving size, and fiber on the nutrition label.
    • Is a serving 1 slice of bread or 2 slices? You can get whole grain breads that range from 70 calories per serving up to almost 200 calories per serving. Read carefully and know what you are getting in a serving!
    • 2-3 grams of fiber per serving is a healthier choice. Just be sure to check what the serving size is. 3 grams of fiber per slice is much different than 3 grams per 2 slices! Eating more fiber aids digestion and helps you feel full longer.

Q: How much sugar is in a can of soda?

A: There are 10 tsp of sugar or 40 grams in a 12-oz can of soda. Help kids do a Drink Think using our free downloadable activity pages.