Sunday, October 14, 2012

Nutritional Needs and New Nutrition Labels: Kid' Games, Lesson Plans, and Curricular Activities

 Nutrition Facts:
  • Eating breakfast helps children perform better
  • Healthy eating is associated with reduced risk for disease (including heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes)
  • Depending on the source, one in five or one in three American children and adolescents are overweight or obese
  • About 75% of the $2.8TRILLION in annual health care costs in the US is from chronic diseases that can often be reversed or prevented by a healthy diet and lifestyle (better food choices and exercise)
  • An optimal diet is 
    • low in unhealthy carbs (sugar and refined carbohydrates) 
    • low in fat (especially saturated fats and trans fats)
    • low in red meat (animal protein consumption has been found to trigger the release of cancer-promoting growth hormone IGF -1)
    • low in processed foods
    • high in healthy carbs (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, unrefined forms of fish)
    • calories count
Nutritional Misconceptions:
  • As long as you lose weight it doesn't matter what you eat
  • Being thin does not necessarily mean being healthy

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR PARENTS AND TEACHERS: we must raise kids' awareness of food and nutition facts, and we must both encourage and model better eating preferences and habits.  It also means exercise must be a regular part of our lives and that schools, when cutting gym and recess are hurting the mental and physical health of our kids and we must find alternatives.

As a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 public school lunches must now include fruits and vegetables, remain within specific calorie restrictions (high school lunches must be less than 850 calories, middle school lunches no more than 700 calorie, and elementary school lunches no more than 650), and limit fat and sodium intake.  So, for example, 2% mile has been replaced with skim milk and French fries have been replaced with baked sweet-potato wedges. Some kids, however, are protesting.

Given this, I was surprised to read (No Appetite for Good-for-You School Lunches-NYTimes, 10/5/12) that outside Pittsburgh, near Milwaukee, in western Kansas, in Parsippany NJ, and across Twitter and Facebook, kids are protesting their healthier school lunches. Students claim that they are still hungry (even though they throw away their fruit and vegetables), the meals are 'tasteless' and students prefer going out or to school vending machines to buy chips and snacks instead of eat the school lunch.

THIS is where education, nutritional awareness, and modeling has to come in.

  • kid friendly nutrition web sites
  • an awesome nutritional labeling suggestion
KID/PARENT/TEACHER NUTRITION WEBSITES with games, general information and lesson plans for home, school, and commom core curricular suggestions:
  • Nutrition Facts for Kids (sponsored by is an extraordinary site with links for parents; for teachers teaching about nutrition; nutrition information for kids; kid friendly and healthy recipes; and kids' nutrition activities and games.
  • KidsHealth has games, movies, experiments, quizzes, activities, and general information. Their topics include how the body works, staying healthy, staying safe, puberty and growing up, recipes and cooking. This site has separate sections for parents, for kids, and for teens.
  • Kids Eat Well -  from and the Illinois NET Program - has games for PreK-Kindergarten, Elementary School, Middle School, High School, Kids Cooking, and Family Fun sections.
  • Nutrition Fun For Kids - has free puzzle/activity downloads for kids to read/play, ideas of (seasonal) fun things to do, fun kids 'health' books to read, recipes, and an awesome list of additional links to games and kid-friendly nutrition websites.
  • Nourish Interactive -  has nutrition games for kids and interactive nutrition tools and tips for parents and health educators. At this website there are games/information for:
    • for kids: nutrition and cooking games, Food Label Fun, and Farm to Table games
    • a Teacher's Corner with handouts, recipes and cooking tips
    • a Parent's Tips and Tools section with important topics to print up and use when talking with kids and their pediatricians; recipes,  and meal tips [note that there is one prompt with advertising in the parent's section for Mistrys - the online chemist.]
    • a Featured Recipe section
  • has games and 'exploration' prompts dedicated to nutrition that include identifying and classifying foods into the five food groups and identifying the health benefits of each food group.. They have 
    • Little D's Nutrition Expedition Games designed for lower elementary students  
    • Arianna's Nutrition Expedition Games designed for upper elementary students
    • Other Nutrition Games relating to the benefits of eating healthy meals, especially breakfast and experiment with some winning combinations of foods.
  • is a colorful, attractive site with prompts for fun kid recipes; learning about their bodies; reading suggestions for food, fun and fitness; games for kids created by kids; a scavenger hunt to be done at home; a fitness challenge; and a "Move Mixer" where kids design a dance and then do it. There is also a fun "quiz" section.
  • The Super Crew for Kids has links for Children's Book Corner, Fun Activities, and Nutrition Facts. Activities include coloring pages, puzzles and experiments the family can do together.  There are also activities in Spanish.
  • SUPER WEBSITE FOR TEACHERS WITH LESSON PLANS INTEGRATING NUTRITION WITH MATH, LANGUAGE ARTS, SCIENCE AND SOCIAL STUDIES: Leafy-Greens Council.  The group links up with their "Cruiferous Crusaders All Star Cancer Fighting Team (all herbivorous dinosaurs) to teach kids/students about the benefits of cruciferous vegetables (vegetables from the leafy green family). Teachers who incorporate their lesson plans into their classrooms can receive free book covers, trading cards and posters (while supplies last).
  • Food Champs - for younger kids (ages 2-5 and 6-8) it has games, coloring sheets, recipes and activity pages for kids.
  • USDA and their Farm Service Agency has a site with links for coloring pages, fun farm facts, games, and information on conservation and the environment.
  • Body and Mind sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a wonderfully attractive site with classroom activities and games as well as prompts to play on while learning about diseases, food and nutrition, physical activity, safety, and 'your body.'

Nutritional labels help all of us identify foods we should be eating versus those we probably should not.  Greater awareness on nutrition along greater ease of identifying foods and food products can make a big difference in consumption.

Mark Bittman in the New York Times Sunday Review (10/14/12)   "My Dear Food Label" noted that while nutrition labels already give us useful information they don't tell us whether that food item is at all nutritionally beneficial to us.
Even the simplest information - a red, yellow or green "traffic light," for example - would encourage consumers to make healthier choices...[and]might help counter obesity.
Bittman continues noting that such labels "might as well be a skill and crossbones" for manufacturers of 'red light' items which results in their reluctance to carry this through. He notes that in one study (A 2-Pahse Labeling and Choice Architecture Intervention to Improve Healthy Food and Beverage Choices by A.N. Thorndike, L. Sonnenberg, J. Riis, S. Barraclough, and D.E. Levy, found in the American Journal of Public Health, 2011) sales of red-lighted soda fell by 16.5% in three months and the authors concluded that a color-coded labeling intervention improved sales of healthy items.

Over the last few months Bittman has worked with Werner Design Werks and devised a food label that "can tell a story about three key elements of any packaged food" and provide an overall traffic-light-style recommendation or warning. Here is their suggestion: A color coded bar with a 15-point scale determining the product's overall rating for
    • Nutrition (including high sugar, trans fats, micronutrients and fiber, etc.)
    • Foodiness - "how close the product is to real food"
    • Welfare - the treatment of workers, animals, and the earth in the preparation of the product.
Nutrition, Foodness and Welfare would each have a rating bar illustrating how well the particular product holds up on a 0-5 rating scale. It would also color code the 'healthiness' of the product along their 15-point scale.  GREEN would recommend "eat" with a score of 11-15 (as seen in the image below); YELLOW would recommend "eat with restraint or consideration" with a score of 6-10; and RED would recommend the food be eaten "rarely or never" with a score of 0-5. The label would also indicate whether the product contained GMO's (Genetically Modified Organisms). Here is what they might look like (sorry I couldn't find a clearer image) along with a link to the complete article "The Proposed Nutrition Label: A Quick Read, Out Front" -The New York Times  October 13, 2012):

BOTTOM LINE: As consumers, parents and educators, we need to be both more demanding and more aware of our options. We need to model better eating and better health awareness.

What do you think?  What are some of the things you're doing to help?  Please let us know in the comments and thank you for your visit.


  1. This is a lot of good information with a lot of good sites. We are constantly trying to add more fruits and vegetables to our diets. I am also trying to be more educated in understanding food labels.

    Following from the hop!

    Mel S

  2. I am a new follower from the blog hop! This is a lot of good info! I hope you follow me back.

  3. I am a new follower from the blog hop too! Great information . I may link to you from my blog Come visit!

  4. Hi- Yes, such important to eat healthy!

    (I saw you linking up on my Mommy and Me posts. I deleted your link because the post should be including a picture of you with your children. Let me know if I've made a mistake, but it's not just a linky for building followers, but specifically for Mommy and Me posts).

  5. Following from the blog hop..Such great info

  6. Thanks for all this information! My son is nine months old and this info is definitely invaluable. Also, I loved that you pointed out that just because someone may be thin doesn't mean they are healthy. It's called being "skinny fat"! Not good.

    I'm your newest follower by the way!


  7. Hey,

    I'm a new follower from the blog hop. Nice to "meet" you! :)


  8. I am always wondering what is in my kids lunches at school but I am always too busy to actually find out. Thanx for all the great info. I'm your newest follower, please check me out @

  9. This is great! It is so important to be teaching kids how to be healthy....something that is currently lacking in our society. Thanks for linking this up with Mommy Moments!

  10. Thankfully, I never had to worry about my students having had breakfast, although sometimes some would forget their lunch. But I understand it's a problem in some areas of Canada and the USA. Didn't Jamie Oliver try to do something about the food in schools in England and the USA, but was told "No." ???

    abcw team

  11. Good post. Balanced nutrition is so important. Carver, ABC Wed. Team

  12. There is such a difference between what we were taught (or not taught) when I was in school many, many years ago.
    Both of my Granddaughters have had wonderful foundations in eating from their parents and especially from their early years teachers. School parties had an emphasis on veggies and dips and fruit with a few cookies thrown in.
    I was amazed to see the young boys especially loading their plates with broccolli and dip and orange and apple wedges with nary a cookie on them.
    I give those teachers kudos!

  13. Oops, I forgot to answer your question. Yes the shower water stream is all carved wood too.
    Not my taste in sculptures but it is very fine craftsmanship.

  14. We always have three meals a day, lots of vegetables and fruit, and at least a litre water a day. My Australian daughter is very careful with food. She is also vegetarian.I think my children did well. They are slim, and cycle whenever they can.They walk a lot and my elder daughter does a lot of skating on rollerskates.She is 45 but looks a lot younger.

  15. Pressure groups have tried to get the "traffic light" system on our labels for years. The big food companies have resisted and lobbied govt. When I look back to what I had for school meals, healthy unprocessed foods, and see what is offered today I shake my head.

  16. We have breakfast every day. I don't know how people can't. I'd get so hungry!

  17. It is difficult these days to figure out what's healthy, and what appears healthy. Great tips :)


  18. As a former teacher, I loved it when we had breakfast in the classroom every morning. There was always two choices and I felt like the kids performed better. But, we had Title 1 money that helped us get that grant.

  19. As a Mom, I always ensure that my kids eat good breakfast before they go to school.

    Nuggets of Wisdom
    Rose, ABC Wednesday

  20. I was happy to hear that our schools removed all of the junk from the vending machines. My kids almost always pack their lunch though. I also insist on a healthy breakfast each morning.

  21. Very interesting and something everybody should do.
    would love to have you come and share via our hop10 - Linky at
    Happy Wednesday !

  22. I think teaching the kids about nutrition through games and such is a good way to make the lessons stick. Thanks for the info.

  23. No one in our house eats breakfast. Such a BAD habit!

  24. Thanks for pointing out the nutritional misconceptions! I was probably at my unhealthiest in my adulthood when I was at my lowest weight, due to cutting calories by eating mostly lean pockets. Balanced is the way to go. :D

    ♥ aquariann
    Featured Photo: Dying for a Drink at The Crypt Cafe