News & Views on Child Nutrition
For Parents, Educators, and Health Professionals
Editor: Connie Liakos Evers, MS, RD
Issue 76, September 2010

(updated 8/17/2011)

Healthy Habits Puzzle

Start the School Year with Healthy Habits

The start of the school year is a great time to start or renew healthy habits. This year, instead of lecturing kids about the perils of weight gain or disease, emphasize how healthy habits can lead to success, whether in the classroom, on the playing field, or in the music room.

Download the Healthy Habits Puzzle here. This activity sheet is a great way for teachers or parents to start off the school year. It's also a fun way to kick off a unit about health or nutrition.

Fueling for Success:
A Guide for TeensFueling for Success

Tested on teens, our four-page interactive guide offers a practical approach to teaching good nutrition habits to teens. (updated 2011 with MyPlate guide!)

TEACHER TIP: Healthy Eating for Teens

"Open your nutrition book to page 68 and we will read about mineral deficiencies, cholesterol levels and nutritional diseases of the middle ages. Tomorrow, we will discuss the history of scurvy," instructed Mr. Eatwell, as his class of sophomores yawned and grumbled.

Nutrition diseases of the middle ages or even nutrition diseases of those in middle age are not topics that grab the interest of a group of anxious teens. But turn the talk to fitness, sports performance, academic achievement and appearance and adolescent ears will begin to perk up.

Most teens want to know how nutrition can help them in the here and now. If you can convince students that food is fuel and the proper fuel will make a difference in their life today, you will succeed in getting them excited about healthful eating.

Emphasizing the link between sports or exercise and food is a winning plan. More than half of the average high school population are involved in an organized school sport and many more participate in outside activities such as dance, aerobic exercise, biking or the martial arts. Research shows that teens involved in athletics have better eating habits. For teens who are inactive, the challenge is to convince them of the importance of both exercise and proper nutrition in developing a fit mind and body.

Eating for Achievement

  • Active adolescents do best when they fuel their bodies with a high-energy diet based on MyPlate. By emphasizing a diet full of whole grains, fruits and vegetables with a balance of lean protein foods and low fat dairy products, the body will be tuned for peak performance.
  • During exercise, carbohydrate fuels working muscles via breakdown of glycogen, the storage form of carbohydrate which releases glucose during muscle work. The body also relies on a steady stream of blood glucose to fuel all body systems, even the brain.
  • The more active the teen, the more carbohydrate is needed for refueling. Fatigue, "burn out," and lack of stamina can all be signs that body carbohydrate stores are low.
  • Timing can also influence the outcome of practice or the big game. Ideally, the pre-event meal should be eaten two to three hours prior to the start of an event. On practice days, a snack or light meal high in complex carbohydrates, moderate in protein and low in fat and sugar can be eaten up to one hour before.
  • Fluids should also be emphasized prior to and during physical activity. Water is actually the nutrient of most immediate concern to the athlete. Frequent water breaks, especially in warm weather, are a necessity. Each pound of water lost through sweat should be replaced with 16 ounces (2 cups) of fluid.
  • When it comes to fueling the mind, remind students to eat a balanced breakfast every day. Brain cells need a constant supply of energy to work at their best. Kids and teens who eat breakfast are better able to think, concentrate, learn and even score higher on standardized tests.

After School Snacking Reminders

Afternoons are a hungry time for school kids. Children will often head off the bus and straight into the kitchen. Make sure there are plenty of easy-to-eat healthful snacks that are eye level and within easy reach. Hungry kids will eat whatever is available so stock up on nutritious choices:

• airtight containers filled with cleaned fresh vegetables such as carrots, baby squash, broccoli florets, pea pods, celery, radishes and jicama slices.
• low fat salad dressing, salsa, hummus, or bean dips for dipping vegetables
• airtight containers filled with washed fruit such as grapes, melon balls, berries & kiwi chunks
• low fat yogurt
• reduced fat cheese sticks
• nonfat or 1% milk
• 100% fruit juice
• pitcher of chilled water

• canned pineapple chunks, mandarin oranges, refried beans, tuna and vegetable soup
• nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, pistachios and peanuts
• dried fruit such as raisins, dried cranberries and apricot halves
• whole grain crackers
• low-sugar cereals
• whole grain mini-bagels, pita bread and tortillas (whole grain corn or flour)

• Fruit Juice Pops
• Frozen grapes

• bowl of fresh fruit
• bowl of grape tomatoes

Snack times should be planned as "mini-meals", emphasizing nutritious foods and beverages from the MyPlate. Encourage your child to include at least two of the five major food groups at every snack.

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Updates from Connie

  • Our Nutrition Education Toolkit is a great value! Order online and for less than $35, you will receive a complete elementary curriculum which is both hands-on and fun!
  • See what's growing in Connie's garden this summer and fall. Updated weekly, Connie shares her tips and recipes for using fresh garden produce.
  • Keep up with Connie on twitter. Receive frequent tips or links to pertinent programs, recipes, research studies, special offers and more!




Nutrition Minute Tips from FK Readers

In the May/June issue of the Feeding Kids Newsletter, I asked readers to send in their favorite nutrition tips. I received some wonderful tips and feedback — thank you! Here are some of your great ideas:

  • I created 2 trivia calendars to be read during the morning announcements. Students submit their answers by 9 a.m.; winner is announced the next morning; winner receives a pencil.
    —Janice L. Swope
  • We do a Food Facts question of the day. The kids love playing 'trivia' and they learn so much about healthy foods and eating!! We also play food group and portion size bingo. For the younger kids we do food group and the older group we do portion size - they LOVE it!! We also do seasonal 'New Foods Fairs' featuring seasonal fruits and vegetables that the kids may not have heard of.
    —Amy Kubal
  • The kids loved to see their class' name on a menu! When I was doing a nutrition lesson I would take a poll on what the favorites were regarding fresh fruits and vegetables. The food that won was featured on a menu. The classroom was also identified on the menu (teacher, grade and school). Participation was always higher on those days that a winner was published on the menu.
    —Lois Black
    Retired R.D., L.DN and school food service director
  • Here's one tip I use here at school: I create a nutrition-related bulletin board. Kids can easily read it while walking by on their way to recess, etc.
    —Denise Hershmang
  • Have the students guess which household items appropriately represent a food portion. For example, a deck of cards = 3 oz of chicken/meat or a baseball =1 cup of fresh fruit
    To make it more challenging, you can make a contest out of it to see who gets the most right in 1 minute.
    —Christine Cliff, MPH, RD, LDN
    Nutrition Specialist
    The Illinois NET Program
  • Highlight a different fruit and or vegetable every week. The schools showcase this weekly by reading a short blurb on the morning announcements and the cafeteria staff them prepares the items each Wednesday.
    —Jean Mosley, M.S., RD
    Child Nutrition Director
    Coppell ISD
  • Place measuring scoops in commonly used items, such as cereals or crackers, which match the suggested portion size. This lets kids (and adults) practice portion control and gives them a better understanding of terms such as “1 cup.”
    —Alison Beck
    AmeriCorps Member
    Children's Hunger Alliance
See MORE Nutrition Tips»



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News in Brief

September is National Food Safety Education Month®
With all the worry about eggs this summer, September is a good month to review food safety guidelines. Check out Be Food Safe from the CDC.

Recent Studies of Interest:

  • Eating vegetables first: the use of portion size to increase vegetable intake in preschool children Link
  • Body-Image Distortion Predicts Onset of Unsafe Weight-Loss Behaviors Link
  • Computer Fun Helps Improve Girls' Food Choices, Fitness Link
  • Disparities in Peaks, Plateaus, and Declines in Prevalence of High BMI Among Adolescents Link

Recommended: Rethinking Nutrition
Rethinking Nutrition: Connecting Science and Practice in Early Childhood Settings does a fantastic job of translating the most up-to-date science of child nutrition into practical, common sense advice for those who care for young children. From feeding relationships to food safety, everything a child care provider needs to know about food and activity for young children is covered in this book. Helpful charts, practice tips, and real-world examples make for a user-friendly resource.

The information contained in this newsletter is not intended as a substitute for medical and/or nutrition advice. See your physician and/or registered dietitian for individual health and/or dietary concerns.

©2011 by Connie Liakos Evers, All Rights Reserved. There is a modest reprint fee for reproducing the material in this newsletter in either print or electronic publications. Please send an email to for details and rates.

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Connie Evers, MS, RD, is a frequent speaker at state and national conferences. Email Connie for more information. She is also the author of How to Teach Nutrition to Kids , Nutrition Fun with Brocc & Roll, Good for You! and additional resources located at

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