Program Evaluation: Helping Middle School Students Make Healthier Food Choices With Nutrition Education

Exercise Your Options

Helping Middle School Students Make Healthier Food Choices With Nutrition Education

Full Evaluation Results

Evaluation Summary

Middle school is an important environment for healthy eating and exercise education, as students take more responsibility over their diet and exercise behavior when they get older. The Exercise Your Optionsnutrition program for middle-school students program consists of 8 lessons aligned with California’s Common Core Standards and the US Dietary Guidelines for healthy eating. The program includes several technology-integrated activities for increased effectiveness. An evaluation of our program has been published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Health Promotion.

Lessons Cover
  • How to consume a balanced diet
  • Strategies for increasing consumption of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat or nonfat dairy products
  • Strategies for reducing consumption of sugars and sweets
  • How to increase exercise by reducing time sitting in front of TVs and computers
Program Materials
  • Teacher guide with instructions
  • Student workbook with lesson activities
  • Supportive videos, available on DVD or through the Dairy Council’s website
Key findings from research evaluating the program
  • The program increased students’ consumption of dairy products
  • The program decreased students’ consumption of foods high in empty calories
  • The program decreased the amount of time students spent sitting in front of TVs and computers
  • The program increased the frequency that students exercised for at least 60 minutes a day
Conclusions
Adolescents take more control of their nutrition and physical activity choices as they gain independence. The Exercise Your Options nutrition and physical activity program for middle-school students has shown evidence of increasing intake of some healthy foods, such as dairy products, and reducing intake of empty calorie foods, including sugars and sweets. It also showed evidence of increasing children’s physical activity, while simultaneously reducing their time spent doing sedentary activities such as watching TV or playing video and computer games.

 

About the study
The program was most recently evaluated during the 2006-2007 school year by independent researchers at the Harder & Company Community Research, Inc research firm. Over 234,000 students participated in the program during that year throughout the state of California, and over 650 of those students participated in the formative evaluation. Researchers studied qualitative and quantitative outcomes of the program using surveys and classroom observations by professionals. Target outcomes were changes in students’ nutrition knowledge, attitudes towards nutrition, and diet and exercise behaviors. Students were measured prior-to and after participating in the program, but there was no Control group of students to make comparisons.

 

Read the full report here.

View Exercise Your Options middle school program materials, including all eight video segments.

Full Evaluation Results

Nutrition programs are free to California teachers and available for a nominal cost for teachers from other states.

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Teacher Comments

The video automatically ties the students in. And it’s an effective way to get across complex concepts, because it can be more concise than we can be, because the video is edited and polished.
From a teacher’s perspective, the alignment with the standards of education results in situations where the teachers have little additional points to cover to meet their requirements. "I didn’t have to add anything to teach the lessons," succinctly covers many teachers’ perspectives.
We just had the California State writing test, and (prior) I asked the students what they needed to get ready. One student said they needed to eat breakfast, and explained why. They remembered the EYO breakfast lesson!