Healthy Eating for Busy Families Program Evaluation Results

Healthy Eating for Busy Families

Healthy Eating for Busy FamiliesHealth Professional and Parent Program Evaluation Results

Evaluation Summary


Making Meals Matter for Your School-Age Child has been updated to Healthy Eating for Busy Families to take advantage of health literacy recommendations and focus groups results with parents and health educators. The new booklet released August 2016 simplifies concepts in an eight-page booklet that is a condensed pocket-book size with enhanced visuals. The main topics are consistent with Making Meals Matter:

  • Describe foods within MyPlate's five food groups and how to combine foods for balanced meals.
  • Provide parents breakfast, snack and dinner ideas and planning strategies to make mealtimes easier.
  • Trade up from empty-calorie foods to foods from the food groups.
  • Empower parents and caregivers to offer a variety of foods to help children grow strong and be ready to learn. 
  • Enhanced links to online resources for more detailed information. 

Future evaluation of the new design and content will be updated here. In the meantime, read results of our prior projects. 

Making Meals Matter for Your School-Age Child is an eight-page booklet for parents of elementary students ages six through twelve. It is used by health professionals as a take away booklet following an appointment as well as group classes and individual counseling sessions. Health educators in schools and school nurses use the booklet to encourage parents to prepare their families healthy meals and snacks. This is a nice extension to the wellness policies implemented in schools to encourage families and the community to adopt a lifestyle that will encourage improved long term health.

School-based evaluation

Dairy Council of California is committed to developing high-quality programs that can be adapted in a variety of settings. To determine the effectiveness of Making Meals Matter for Your School-Age Child, it was evaluated with the guidance of WestEd, an independent third party evaluator, with parents of second grade students. In this study, the booklets were sent home to half of the families to supplement a 10-lesson nutrition education program and evaluated the impact on students’ nutrition-related knowledge and food choices. Parents are inundated with information and it was positive that:

  • 53% of parents reported reading the entire booklet;
  • 41% reported some of the booklet

Over 71% of parents reported that they used the booklet’s nutrition information when shopping for food. This is a critical behavioral improvement to improve their choices at the time of food purchases. Parent support of the information should encourage health professionals and educators to continue to prioritize nutrition education information to parents to reinforce healthy messages.

Students also completed surveys at the end of the classroom program and four months later to identify changes in nutrition knowledge and food choices. Students whose parents received the booklet increased their accuracy on the food-classification questions. They were more likely than other students to correctly classify foods in the grains group, dairy group, vegetable group and the category of extras (i.e. discretionary calories) at post-test. These results were also found for the correct classification of all but vegetables, at the four-month follow-up assessment as well. There was a positive change in reported food intake at post-test. Students reported eating more vegetables and cheese at post-test indicating a choice towards more food-group foods.

Health care setting evaluation

At the same time, health professionals using Making Meals Matter for Your School-Age Child were surveyed to determine the ease of implementating the booklet with their clients and about content appropriateness. The sample was randomly selected from a query of those who had ordered at least 50 booklets in the prior six months. Of the 140 health professionals emailed, 50 (36%) completed the survey. Respondents included:

  • Health Educators (12)
  • Pediatricians (6)
  • Nurse Practitioners (16)
  • Dietitians (14)

Over half use the program in one-on-one parent sessions followed by health fairs, group sessions and as additional information sent home to parents. Feedback was very positive with 100% responding that the program addresses their clients’ needs and 98% agreed that the amount of information in the booklet was just right. Additional qualitative feedback indicated that the booklet contains good information that is attractively presented. The content is easy to read, concise and works well with or without explanation.

Health Professional Comments

  • It presents the information in a booklet format that the parent can take with them and use as a reference.
  • It gives me reinforcement on counseling and it is appealing to the eye.
  • It is colorful, professional made and have lots of good information.
  • Nice graphics that catch the eye and very simple to understand for our parents in the school district.
  • The need for healthy foods and physical activity are the basis for good school achievement. This pamphlet serves as another tool to motivate parents/guardians.

View Healthy Eating for Busy Families materials available for health professionals and educators