Having Fun Learning the Five Food Groups: Nutrition in Kindergarten

10, September 2014 9:00 AM

Last fall we introduced Building a Healthy Me!, a new program for transitional and Kindergarten students and completed an evaluation to determine the effectiveness of the classroom units. Observing kindergartners engage with their peers to learn about nutrition was a pleasure. Statewide, almost 700 students completed the pre- and post-survey to identify what they learned about the food groups.

Can Kindergartners learn about nutrition?

The results indicated 5 and 6 year olds can improve their nutrition knowledge and parents heard their kids talking about nutrition. This dialogue at home leads to kids:

  • Wanting to help prepare meals at home
  • Trying more foods at home
  • Asking for healthy snacks
  • Talking about the food groups

Fast Facts for Teachers

Working with 32 classroom teachers in the evaluation project, we observed a lot of great teaching ideas. Many teachers like to start the year with nutrition since it’s a topic that engages all students, even the quiet ones. One creative teacher started the program in November talking about a turkey with five different colored feathers to represent the five food groups.

Teacher highlights included:

  • “The song was the most delightful part. Students could say their food groups after this.”
  • “I liked the pictures, graphics with real food. It made a big difference to understand what to eat at home.”
  • Students “reflect more and deeper understanding with the new program.”
  • “I really like the program. The songs and posters help the children to engage right away. They make all kinds of connections. The extension activities are well planned - good active learning.”

Survey results indicated that teachers found the program an effective way to promote healthy eating (97%) and improved students’ ability to choose healthy foods (90%). One hundred percent of teachers found the activities easy to teach, taking 11-19 minutes each with an average preparation time of just 3-8 minutes per activity. Read more about the evaluation results and order your teaching materials today. Better yet, see the program in action with our video.

Parents, looking for ways to get your kids excited to talk about food and healthy eating? Raising healthy kids starts with you! We have resources to help.

Trina Robertson, MS, RDN

Tags: healthy foods kindergarten nutrition nutrition lesson plans Trina Robertson
Categories: categoryNutrition Education

September Wellness Wake-Up Call!

05, September 2014 9:00 AM

Bite sized goals can help you achieve a plate of success!

Looking to improve your health and wellness in the workplace or at home? Here is your monthly Wellness Wake-Up Call. 

Many of us made great resolutions at the start of the New Year, but have lost sight of our goals as time has passed. Revive some motivation to finish this year strong by swapping big, unrealistic goals with smaller, attainable ones. Feel good about the changes you are making and Think Tiny!

While the start of a new school year can mean busy schedules for you and your children, think outside the box for a quick and easy meal that's a great source of calcium. The kids love to help make No-Bake Macaroni + Cheese!

Looking for a workout that is challenging yet simple? Try step aerobics for a heart-pumping workout that can be done at work or home.

Read more and share the print-friendly version of the September Workplace Wellness Newsletter with colleagues or friends interested in health topics, delicious recipes and physical activity moves.

Dairy Council of California offers free monthly Workplace Wellness Newsletters as part of our Workplace Wellness Resources.

Tags: Healthy eating nutrition education workplace wellness
Categories: categoryNutrition Education

4 Tips to Eat Healthy While Juggling Work, Family and Back-to-School

03, September 2014 11:31 AM

Back-to-school time usually means back to harried schedules that add homework and soccer practice into an already compressed evening for working parents. Making time for healthy meals and exercise can be overwhelming. No wonder that 60% of Americans say with all that they juggle, they only want to spend about 15 minutes prepping meals (see the full infographic from Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics). 

easy family dinnersAs a busy working mom, I make healthy eating a priority for me and my family, but I don't have hours to dedicate to the endeavor. Since having twins six years ago, I have learned some tips to make the evenings run smoothly while still getting everyone to eat healthy dinners. While the best tip I was ever given was to follow Ellyn Satter's Division of Responsibility, if you are already doing that, here are my top tips that will hopefully make your evening healthier and happier. 

1. Stock and rely on your pantry and freezer. 

When you are busy, you will eat what is around the house or resort to ordering in or using the drive-thru. By stocking your pantry and freezer with some basic staples (use our Staples Shopping List), you can rest assured that there will always be something to pull together at the last-minute. In my house, that often looks like tortillas, cheese, a can of beans for quesadillas or burritos served with vegetables from the freezer; whole wheat bread, tomato, deli ham and cheese for a quick grilled sandwich. 

2. Concentrate on a main dish and choose easy sides

If I do have some time to put into crafting a more-complicated main dish, I go with very easy side dishes to round out the meal and make sure all five food groups are present. (This also comes back to tip #1.) Baby carrots, frozen peas or a cucumber sliced with rice vinegar often constitutes our veggie. Already-cooked frozen brown rice, five-minute couscous or toasted whole wheat bread offers a grain. Fruit grabbed from the bowl on our counter hits that food group. Pouring glasses of milk feels like the easiest one of all. 

3. Take a few minutes to plan and rotate through family favorites

Each weekend, I take a few minutes to scratch out a meal plan for the week. I make my grocery list at the same time and think ahead about what nights we have commitments. I also determine whether I need to do some batch-cooking on Sunday to get us through the week, or if I should pick up a roasted chicken from the supermarket that can easily be added to a salad, quesadilla or served alongside pasta. 

I used to get stuck in this planning phase, trying to remember the meals that are quick and the family enjoys eating. I'd find myself flipping through cookbooks and searching online and my few minutes of planning turned into an hour or more. Getting organized and keeping track of your go-to meals or quick recipes is essential for making this part of the healthy eating process easier. I have been keeping mine on Pinterest. Try this Pinterest board for some of my favorite easy, family recipes and ideas. 

4. Know when to fold 'em

I used to feel guilty about the nights when life had gotten too hectic and the trip to the grocery store didn't happen as I'd planned so I resorted to serving my kids a bowl of cereal or yogurt with granola for dinner. But you know what? They love those nights and so do I. We still gather round the table, I set out some fruit to go with it, and we are having a well-balanced meal with a lot of nutrients. Dishes are a snap and we all get a moment to take a collective breath. I can't think of anything healthier than that. 

What are some of your tips for juggling work, home and busy evenings with eating healthy?

LeAnne R. Ruzzamenti
Director of Marketing Communications
Dairy Council of California 

Tags: back to school family meals Healthy eating healthy kids LeAnne Ruzzamenti
Categories: categoryHealthy Eating

Weekly Family Meals: September

01, September 2014 8:00 AM

With back to school in full swing, advanced planning is essential to make regular family meals a reality. From healthier eating to better academic performance, the benefits of eating together as a family are so significant, it's worth the investment for the whole family. To help get the school year off to a healthy start with family meals, here are a month's worth of recipes and ideas.

September Family Meals Preview
(All recipes and themes subject to change)


Featuring Sweetie Pie Quesadillas, Dunkin' Vegetables and Apricot Peach Smoothies; plus Touchdown Taco Salad, Honey Lime Fruit Toss, Chile con Queso and Apple Carrot Muffins.


Featuring Ranch Chicken, Skillet Cauliflower Gratin and "Grand" Mom's Baked Apple Slices; plus Cornmeal Drop Biscuits, Turnip Greens, Tuna Melts and Beef Brisket Slow Cooker.


You'll be sweet on Honey Lime Tilapia, Apple Salad with Honey Yogurt Dressing and Honey Poached Pears; plus Orange-Honey Arborio Rice Pudding, Grilled Honey Lime Chicken Sandwiches, Honey-Glazed Pork Tenderloin and Honey Baked Bananas.


Slurp down Cheddar-Ale Soup with Mixed Baby Greens With Creamy Dressing and Crostini; plus Fresh Tomato Soup Au Gratin, Open Faced Turkey Sandwiches, Spicy Cheeseburger Soup and Cheese and Fruit Kabobs.


Serve Carrot Salad with California Dried Plums, Baked Chicken and Ziti and Pineapple Berry Smoothies; plus Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Casserole, Pear and Gorgonzola Salad, Creamy Banana Walnut Oatmeal and Gingery Salmon with Cucumber and Radish Salad.

Tags: back to school balanced meals family meals Healthy eating healthy kids recipes
Categories: categoryHealthy Eating

Get Packing: Back-to-School Tips for a Healthier Lunchbox

27, August 2014 8:00 AM

Nothing says “back to school” like backpacks, school supplies and packing lunches. At the start of the school year, it’s easy  to forget about making time to pack a lunch during your busy morning routine.  Even if you are able to throw a lunch together before you’re out the door, you’re never quite sure if what you’ve packed will actually get eaten.  Where does the balance lie between packing a healthy lunch and providing foods kids will actually eat? 

Our Lunch Box printable has over 36 kid-friendly options to help you pack in all five food groups. This guide makes lunch-making easier. Simply choose from each category and you‘re good to go! Here are more great tips to help.

Time Saving Tips

If you decide to pack a lunch, plan and prepare the night before to ensure all five food groups are on tomorrow’s menu. Research shows that milk is often missing from lunches brought from home. Did you know your child can purchase milk from the school cafeteria? Milk and milk products provide essential nutrients like high-quality protein, calcium, potassium and other vitamins required for a healthy diet.

When time is crunched, buying meals from the school lunch program is a nutritionally-balanced and affordable alternative to packing a lunch. School meals are required to be the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and offer students the right balance of fruits, vegetables, low-fat or fat-free milk, whole grains and lean protein with every meal. Check out your child's school cafeteria as many schools have invested in improving and enhancing their school foodservice options with salad bars, smoothies and other appealing options.  

Packing for a Picky Eater

It’s one thing to pack healthy food, but another to get kids to eat what you pack. Try showcasing foods bento-box style or in silicone muffin cups to make them fun to eat.  Another strategy is to explore some kid-friendly recipes and ask your kids to pick the winning dishes. Get your kids’ input during grocery shopping and packing, too.

Read more: Making Packing School Lunches Family Time

Nicole Mize, Dairy Council of California undergraduate dietetic intern

Tags: back to school Healthy eating healthy kids Nicole Mize
Categories: categoryHealthy Eating for Kids

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