24, November 2015 8:50 AM

reading together can improve literacy, reduce the risk of chronic disease

Research links lower literacy skills with higher incidence of chronic disease like diabetes. Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 5 Rs—Read, Rhyme, Routine, Rewards and Relationships—for early brain development. Since literacy skills start in early childhood, children who grow up reading and cooking are better prepared for a healthy life.  

During National Diabetes Awareness Month, experts from First 5 Sacramento, California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom (CFAITC), Sacramento Public Library and parents across the country joined a Twitter Chat to share their best practices and resources to promote reading, improve food literacy, cook with children and foster lifelong healthy habits. Here are some of the highlights and resources shared: 
  • When it comes to promoting literacy and a love of reading with young children, there is no app to replace a lap. First 5 Sacramento recommends reading with children for at least 15 minutes every day. 
  • Reach Out and Read, a non-profit organization of medical providers who promote early literacy and school readiness via well-child visits, offers reading tips for the whole family as well as milestones of early literacy development in both English and Spanish. 
  • Visiting the local library or bookstore is another way to foster a love of reading. Many libraries and bookstores offer free story times and suggestions on age appropriate books. Sacramento Library offers their list at CFAITC has a list, as does Dairy Council of CA
  • kids can help cookCombining meals, reading and bedtime routines, and making the dinner table a no-technology zone, promotes healthy habits and gives children a sense of order and security in their lives. Other healthy habits like regular handwashing and trying new foods on a weekly basis also promote health and food literacy. 
  • Many participants shared how talking about food, planning shopping lists, reading recipes and cooking together were great activities that promote literacy and health among children and adults. Grocery store and farmers market visits are opportunities to explore a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and even foods from other cultures. Children build lifelong skills when enlisted to read recipes, measure, pour and more.
  • First 5 California developed Fast Fresh and Fun, a free cookbook with healthy and easy recipes like Breakfast Burrito Scrambles and a Quick Curry Bowl that are fun for the whole family to make and eat together.
  • Dairy Council of CA’s website offers a host of resources for raising healthy eaters including the Eat, Play, Love webinar.
  • Reading, food literacy and cooking can easily be integrated into the classroom and school campus. CFAITC offers resources from their website, ranging from the Imagine This story competition to great cooking demo videos and high school lesson plans on budget friendly meals developed with California Beef Council. Dairy Council of CA promotes Community Health All-Stars like Florencia Rivera who combines classroom nutrition education with reading projects and food literacy activities for an annual Stone Soup celebration.   
How do you promote reading and health in your day to day life? 



DeWalt DA, Berkman ND, Sheridan S, Lohr KN, Pignone MP. Literacy and Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 2004;19(12):1228-1239. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1497.2004.40153.x. Accessed online 11/24/15.

American Academy of Pediatrics, 5 Rs for brain development: Accessed online 11/24/15.

Tags: diabetes family meals food literacy Healthy eating healthy eating patterns nutrition education
Categories: categoryHealthy Eating for Kids

20, November 2015 9:19 AM

Dairy Council of CA booth  at CSNA conference

Dairy Council of California (CA) promoted healthy eating in schools and the Smarter Lunchrooms movement through several moderated sessions at the California School Nutrition Association Annual Meeting in Ontario, California this month.

Following dual sessions on Smarter Lunchrooms, Dairy Council of CA lead two sessions titled "Food Wars." One session highlighted the controversy and the school food service impact of the science behind fat, sugar and salt

The second session featured an open forum discussion of marketing and nutrition education strategies to foster healthier schools and surrounding communities. 

Additionally, Dairy Council of CA staff presented as a panel member on the outreach toolkit for marketing nutrition education programs to promote healthier school meals. 

Dairy Council of CA recieves Moscone Award at CSNA conference

Between this handful of sessions featuring best practices, staff still found time to meet and greet conference attendees as their exhibit hall booth.

A final surprise highlight of the conference came during a general session when Dairy Council of CA was recognized with the Moscone Commitment to Child Nutrition Award. 

This annual award recognizes an individual or organization's contributions to California's children in the area of nutrition education

Receiving the award on behalf of Dairy Council of CA was Shannan Young, Food Systems Program Manager and member of the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement of California leadership team. 


Tags: Healthy eating nutrition education nutrition lesson plans school meals smarter lunchrooms
Categories: categoryNutrition Education

04, November 2015 9:00 AM

In October 2015, the San Jose Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Book Club met to discuss "The Slow Down Diet" by Marc David. The book, celebrating it's 10th anniversary, includes an eight-week program designed to produce weight loss while promoting eating pleasure and energy levels. 

The author has a master's degree in the psychology of eating and has studied nutrition at a variety of schools, but is not a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or a clinical psychologist. At the core of the Slow Down Diet are the eight universal metabolizers; Relaxation, Quality, Awareness, Rhythm, Pleasure, Thought, Story and the Sacredwhich the author considers the missing pieces in our view of metabolism. 

People are successful on his diet plan, at least temporarily, because they stop fighting food and start embracing it. This helps them shift their focus from denial to nourishment and adopt a positive relationship with food. 

Many of his clients eat very quickly, causing them to overeat since they fail to notice the food they just consumed. Some of the simple techniques he recommends are to slow down while eating, focus on their breathing, eat high-quality food, eat earlier in the day (breakfast and lunch), get more sleep, enjoy their food and eat more smaller meals.

Where We Agree

We agreed with many principles in the book, a primary one being focusing on how to eat as well as what to eat. Many books by respected authors have made this case to focus on the "how" of eating, specifically Fearless Feeding, Slim By Design and Intuitive Eating. Slowing down to enjoy food and eating balanced meals with minimally processed foods is completely consistent with the nutrition philosophy of everyone in our club. I especially liked this sentence, "Vitamin T - Time for meals - is the most fundamental nutritional requirement and one that is lacking in the diets of many in the civilized world."

Differences of Opinion

Even though we agreed with the author on the main principles of the book, we were disappointed by the author's tendency to play "fast and loose" with the science. Here are just a few of the dubious assertions about metabolism. Our comments follow in italics:

  • Taking in more oxygen results in greater calorie-burning capacity.
  • Foods eaten in a relaxed state yield fewer net calories due to changes in the digestive process... how you think about food, or the "cephalic phase digestive response" accounts for 30 - 40% of our digestive response to food. The author cites only one study to support this assertion.
  • Relax to build bones. In contrast, the four steps to build bone as recommended by the National Osteoporosis Foundation are eating calcium-containing foods, getting enough vitamin D, participating in regular exercise and avoiding smoking.

The author, in our opinion, does not back up these assertions with well-established, consensus science. Instead he seems to build his theories on a grain of truth or the findings from one single study.

Additionally, he offers some food recommendations that range from unclear to downright dangerous:

  • Remove "unenlightened food products" from your home. How can a food product be enlightened? What are the criteria for food enlightenment?
  • Consume raw milk. The Food and Drug Administration strongly advises against consuming raw milk since it is associated with considerable health risk. Ironically, he recommends consuming highly processed dairy-free alternatives (like soy, almond and rice beverages) which do not have the same nutrient package as milk. 

The Bottom Line

Members of our book club have a wide range of experience in nutritional counseling. We know that some clients respond well to the intuitive approach, slowing down and making peace with food while others respond better to tracking numbers, keeping a food or activity diary and wearing a fitness device to track physical activity patterns. Still others respond best to managing their food environment such as using smaller plates and keeping snack food off the kitchen counter. 

As RDNs, our role is to assess the client and utilize the best approach from our counseling tool kit to meet the their needs. We are also charged with helping clients separate fact from fiction, and to recognize the 10 Red Flags of Junk Science in order to use nutrition resources grounded in consensus-based scientific evidence.

Healthy eating patterns that include food enjoyment and slowing down to smell the roses (or that pot of homemade soup) are highly recommended by our book club. Just be sure to validate nutrition assertions that sound too good to be true! 

Maureen Bligh, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist


Tags: balanced meals calcium Dietitians Book Review food diary healthy dietary patterns
Categories: categoryNutrition Recommendations (Trends, DGA, DASH) categoryNutrition Education

01, November 2015 9:00 AM

No month means more for family meals than November. Gather your family together around nutritious meals with foods from all the food groups. Celebrate the flavors of fall, give thanks and then get cozy with delicious family meals for the entire month.


November Family Meal Recipes

Hearty Fall Flavors

Creamy Hungarian Mushroom Soup, Cornmeal Drop Biscuits and Apple Crumble. Plus Corn Con Carne, Slow Cooker Posole, Honey Poached Pears and Barley Bake.

Nuts for Peanut Butter

Gooey Peanut Butter + Jelly Mug Cake and Super Orange Smoothies. Plus Fresh Fruit Burritos, Spicy Peanut Butter Noodles, Peanut Butter Sesame Pork Chops, Brown Rice with Broccoli and Chocolate Peanut Butter Milksicles.


Maple Roast Turkey, Apple-Onion Stuffing and Light Pumpkin Pie. Plus Guilt Free Gravy, Cranberry SaladGreen Bean Casserole and Cauliflower Gratin with Prosciutto.

Thanks for Leftovers

Fiesta Turkey Soup, Spiced Iced Tea and Cranberry Apple Dessert Risotto. Plus Turkey Waldorf Salad, Creamy Potato Soup, Turkey Fried Rice and Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

Tags: balanced meals family meals Healthy eating holiday recipes
Categories: categoryHealthy Eating

09, October 2015 8:48 AM

pizza garden

When fully implemented, farm to school programs make healthy eating easier by bringing locally sourced and produced foods to school cafeterias while incorporating food literacy and nutrition education.


From school gardens to agricultural assemblies like Mobile Dairy Classroom, farm to school programs help increase food literacy, bring nutrition to life and elevate the health of children and communities while supporting local farmers, local agriculture and local economies.


Since October is Farm to School Month, it's a perfect time to explore the many resources available via to help you extend the learning from classroom nutrition education lessons into farm to school connections. 


Our Farm to school landing page is a great introduction to farm to school efforts across California and how Dairy Council of California partners with educators to make farm to school connections. The online Dairy Farm Game lets students young and old explore a dairy farm with a few clicks of a mouse button.

dairy cow


Review our 9 Easy Ways to Celebrate Farm to School for a range of ideas, resources and activities you can use in your classroom today.


If the Mobile Dairy Classroom has visited your school recently, be sure to log in and access the optional extension activities aligned to Common Core State Standards for grades K-6. If not, check out this recent video coverage of an assembly in Southern California to learn how kids across the state grow to appreciate their milk, cheese and yogurt.


Still looking for more? California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom is a fantastic resource for educators and the California Farm to School Network offers even more resources and success stories from schools across California. The National School Garden Network is even hosting a Farm to School 101 Webinar on October 13 to help you get started.


Most kids excel when learning is hands on, and farm to school programs bring learning to life for your students. Fuel their bodies and inspire their minds with school gardens, nutrition education and more. How will you celebrate Farm to School in your classroom?




Tags: common core state standards farm to school nutrition lesson plans
Categories: categoryNutrition Education

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