Posts Tagged With: The Shack

Healthy Snacking Activity for Kids!

On Tuesday, Mary Rodavich and I were able to give our 90-minute nutrition lesson to a group of 13 4th graders from The Shack Neighborhood House.  The day before and the morning of the activity, we set up the chairs, pre-chopped some of the food, and set up the supplies we’d need for the activity.  The theme for this nutrition lesson was healthy snacking.  We began the morning by introducing ourselves, telling them we’d be making a few fun recipes, and also learning about what it means to snack healthy.  After going over MyPlate, the kids were able to give an example of a snack from each section of the MyPlate.  Then I went over the acronym “S.N.A.C.K.S.” with the kids.

“Not in front of the TV” received gasps from the audience, and we had the kids figure out why that might not be a good idea.  It has something to do with portion control. If you’re zoned out in front of the TV, you may find yourself not paying attention to what you’re eating, or how much you’re eating.  And snacks are supposed to be smaller portions than a meal, because you want to still be hungry for dinner!

We then told the kids we’d be making a snack from the vegetable food group– homemade tomato salsa.  Several of the kids got to wash their hands, and volunteer to come up front and help chop the tomatoes and green peppers, measure out the lime juice, and put the cilantro, garlic, and jalapeno peppers into the bowl to be mixed.

When I held up the green onions, the kids thought it was asparagus! So I passed some green onions around, as well as the bunch of cilantro so the kids could smell and feel the herbs.

When the salsa had finished, we moved on to making tortilla chips from wheat tortillas. Each 4th grader got to cut up their tortilla into triangles, spray both sides with cooking spray, and sprinkle on salt, pepper, and chili powder.

Then while the tortilla chips were baking, the kids were divided into 3 teams and got to play “Guess That Fruit or Vegetable.” I had bought 12 different fruits and vegetables (zucchini, cucumber, orange, parsnip, turnip, celery, bell pepper, banana, pear, mango, cabbage). We put each item into a paper bag, taped it up, put a #1-12 on it, and cut out a small hole in the back of the bag. Teams were instructed to send 1 team member at a time to choose a bag, and by touching only, write down their guess of what fruit or vegetable was inside.

The kids learned about new fruits and vegetables, and had fun competing for first place.  Some of the items stumped the kids (parsnips feel like a large carrot, after all!), but I was impressed that they could tell what a mango was just by feeling it.  And guessing “squash” for zucchini is technically correct.

Finally, after the lesson & activity, the kids were able to line up at a station and make their own fruit & cheese kabobs on skewers.  We encouraged the kids to add a variety of the fruits to their skewers, but the kids were huge fans of the purple grapes, strawberries, and cheddar cheese especially.

The kids also got to try their tortilla chips and salsa at this point, and were able to take home containers of extra salsa, as well as a nutritional brochure containing the information we covered (S.N.A.C.K.S.) and recipes for the salsa and chips.

As the 90 minutes was coming to a close, I asked the kids what food groups we had eaten as snacks today. The kids were able to tell Mary and I that the salsa was a vegetable, the whole wheat tortilla chips were a grain, and the kabobs were in the dairy (cheddar and mozzarella cheese) and fruit food groups.  Hopefully the kids will take away the message that its important to snack and eat from a variety of food groups, and not all just from the grains or fats & oils food group (cookies, granola bars, popcorn, pizza rolls, potato chips, donuts, crackers, etc).

This was a fun activity to design and implement, and I hope that in the future I will continue to have opportunities to teach kids to get excited about fruits and vegetables and try new things!

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“The Shack” Neighborhood House & Nutrition

Mary and I had the opportunity today to visit The Shack.  Since we will be giving a cooking demo and nutrition lesson to the 3rd & 4th graders next week, we thought it’d be a good idea to check out The Shack’s kids, the families it serves, the current nutrition, and assess any needs.  We spent the morning with 9 Kindergarteners, Caleb (the counselor), and 2 “JVs” or Junior Volunteers who are 7th-12th grade students.  It was fun (& draining!) to get to know the kids. I played on the playground with the kids, where we watched a mole burrow a long tunnel; played monopoly; went to the sensory garden; and learned about new snacks.

The sensory garden was pretty cool. It’s an herb garden with mint, sage, basil, and other herbs I couldn’t recognize. The kindergardeners were encouraged to use their senses (smell, touch, see) to learn about the different herbs. Then they all got to pick a basil leaf to take inside.

This is where it got tricky (I love tricking kids into trying new foods! haha): Amanda told the kids they were each going to get a cracker, spread with cream cheese, and they could put their basil leaf on top, as well as with a slice of a Zima tomato (optional):

Now, after the kids tried their little basil/tomato/cream cheese cracker, they were asked if they liked it.  The kids were big fans of it! But then…muahaha the cream cheese was not cream cheese! It was Mascarpone cheese!

Other activities the kids did was smell different spices (dill, garlic, dried onion), learn about the word “fragrant”, and try a cheese/bean/tomato dip with crackers.

I also got to speak with the woman in charge of the breakfasts and lunches for all 140-180 kids at The Shack every day.

The June menu is below:

Basically, the lunches all have to include a grain (whole grain preferably), 2 oz of protein, 3/4 cup vegetables and fruits, and a milk choice (fat free chocolate milk, or fat free skim milk).  She emphasized that she tries to meet the guidelines while still serving food that kids will like (pizza & pizza rolls are their favorite lunches). The lunch we saw today was a grilled cheese sandwich (I noticed it was made with whole wheat bread), 1/4 cup pears, 1/2 cup french fries (count as a vegetable), and their milk.  The only person I saw taking a skim milk (80 calories)  instead of a chocolate milk (130 calories) was a counselor.  But, the skim milk is still there if kids want it!  Overall, I think they do a good job of including the necessary fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, and protein, while still making the food “kid friendly.”

However, right after lunch, all the kids are allowed to have “free time” and pretty much intermingle with the other grades. They have the opportunity to play computer games inside, but the large majority of the kids were outside in 91*F weather, playing in the pool! I wish I could have jumped in there myself, to cool of! At any rate, about 30 minutes after lunch, a whistle blew and kids jumped out of the pool. I asked what that meant, and Caleb told me that every 20-30 minutes or so, they get the kids out of the pool for about 10 minutes, to calm them down (so things don’t get too rowdy, understandably). It also means the concession stand is open. 30 minutes after a complete lunch? What? Yes. Kids were lining up to buy pizza, pizza rolls, popcorn, beef sticks, ice cream, shaved ice, and more from the concession stand. Not really any healthy choices there. And there was a vending machine with soda and sugary sports drinks that kids were putting dollar bills into as well.

Now, I am not against concession stands. I buy fries, ice cream, shaved ice, and popcorn at amusement parks, fairs, and zoos myself.  But when kids know that they don’t have to eat their fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads, or drink their milk, because just 30 minutes later they can have a lunch of icecream, hotdogs, and a 12oz bottle of Coca Cola each day? They’re not going to finish or fill up on their lunch.

If my nutrition dream could come true, I’d have all the soda in the vending machines replaced with waters, 100% juices, and/or diet sodas (all caffeine-free)…I’d add a fresh fruit salad (in a little dixie cup?) to the concession stand menu, and I’d delay the opening of the concession stand to at least 1.5-2 hours after lunch is served.  Just my thoughts! I think that way, kids would be more likely to eat their lunch because they know they won’t get to the concession stand in another 2 hours (as opposed to 20-30 minutes later), the sugar consumption would be reduced (no more sugary sodas), and there would be a healthy option at the concession stand, there if parents, counselors, guests, or kids are hungry.

I’ll see the kids next week, for our cooking demonstration, nutrition activity, and nutrition lesson. Pretty excited! I think it’ll go well. I mean, if I can handle kindergarteners, I can handle 3rd & 4th graders…right? 🙂

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Targeted Community Nutrition Activity

Next week I’ll have to opportunity to lead a 90-minute lesson & activity for 20-some 3rd & 4th graders, along with my co intern, Mary.  We decided to focus the lesson on healthy snacking.  First we’ll go over the basics– why is snacking good for you? What is My Plate? How can you incorporate MyPlate into your snacks? We will then make homemade tomato salsa with the kids and homemade whole wheat tortilla chips.  This snack covers the vegetable and whole grain portions of MyPlate.  While the chips are baking, we’ll move onto an activity where the kids will be in teams and reach into a bag with fruits & vegetables in it. The plan is they will have to guess the fruit or vegetable without looking at it, and whichever team gets the most correct, wins. We’ll then go over the fruits and vegetables together.  Finally, I’d like to end the lesson with making fruit and cheese kabobs- another snack that incorporates the dairy and fruit portions of MyPlate.  Kids will get to take the extra snacks home with them as well as the salsa and tortilla chip recipes.

We’ll also put together a brochure for parents to read that includes lists of healthy snack options, snack options to limit (aka: potato chips & candy bars), and an acronym for “snacks” — Smaller portions, Not in front of the TV, Am I really hungry?, Choose low-fat options from MyPlate, Kitchen is a good place to eat, and Sit down, slow down, savor, and enjoy.  Hopefully the kids will learn the importance of including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy in their snack choices rather than high-fat/sugar/sodium, low-nutrient content snacks like Doritos, cookies, candy, and sugary drinks.   An important point we’re going to include in the lesson is covering the issue of how to talk to your parents about keeping healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables around the house.  If kids don’t tell their parents they would like to have apples and peanut butter (or celery and hummus) available in the house, then their parents may not always have those items on hand, and instead may continue to buy other snacks like sugary cereals instead.

On another note, here are some really fun ideas alternatives to the peanut butter and jelly standby.  Many of these open-faced sandwiches would make for great snacks for kids if made on whole wheat bread. My personal favorites– the tuna salad (maybe with cucumbers instead of tomatoes), Laughing Cow light cheese with ham and grated carrot, and hummus and chopped peppers. What’s your favorite?

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Day 1 & 2

Community nutrition rotations started on Monday and I was given a bit of an introduction to all the projects and possibilities for these next several weeks.

We spent some time talking about goals objectives for the SDA- Student Dietetic Association. The main goal is to put together a 3-ring binder that the SDA can use each year in order to function at 100%. It can include such things as descriptions of different executive positions within the SDA, fundraising ideas and details, as well as service learning/volunteering opportunities within the community.  This binder can provide ideas for SDAs at other universities in the US.  Not only will the community benefit from the service learning activities that SDA puts on, but the individual SDA members will benefit by putting their skills to use and building their resume at the same time.

There is also an opportunity to work at The Shack, which is a neighborhood house/youth center that serves children in kindergarden through 8th grade, as well as provides educational opportunities for parents and families.  Icould give a cooking demonstration to the kids…something simple and healthy that the kids can learn to make themselves.  When the kids get excited about a healthy recipe, their parents will be more likely to make it for their family.  I could also teach the kids to make bread dough, which they can take home to their families (again, encouraging their parents to cook homemade meals).  Bread is cheap to make (flour, oil, water, yeast, sugar) and can even be frozen and then donated to different food banks as a non-perishable food.  Food banks already receive lots of canned goods, so something like healthy frozen bread dough with attached recipes, can be a welcomed change.

There are also farmer’s markets in Morgantown which I could work at. An idea would be to create recipe cards for dishes that include produce and other food items you can purchase at the farmer’s market, and have a cooking demonstration of that meal, hand out samples, and give the recipe cards to those at the farmer’s market. Many people know they are supposed to eat fruits and vegetables in a healthy diet, but they are unsure as how to prepare them in a fun and appetizing way. The cooking demonstration and recipe cards could teach new cooking skills and give people a new idea of how to prepare fresh produce.

I also took the time to think about what I would like my online social media image to be.  As nutritional professionals, we have the opportunity to reach a larger audience through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Pinterest, and more. This could be as simple as sharing links to health news articles online, writing health and nutrition articles, or blogging about healthy recipes.  Linking these all together (sharing your blog web address on your facebook page, for example) and including them in your email signature will help your professional online presence to grow. And with that growth can come new opportunities in your career.

After the work day I attended a meeting at the Mon County Extension office from 4:30-6:30pm.  There were different members of the community in attendance, including concerned parents, a personal trainer, Registered Dietitians, WIC employees, Extension employees, and nutrition/fitness professionals.  Choose to Change wants to create a healthy environment in Morgantown which makes it easier to make fitness, nutrition, and health an integral, regular part of everyone’s day.  In order to create this healthy community, certain objectives must be set and made by a certain date. These objectives include food and beverage objectives, nutrition objectives, and fitness objectives in the community, schools, and businesses. Possible goals could include installing water fountains at community parks, replacing sugar-sweetened beverages and junk food in vending machines with healthy alternatives, and creating service learning opportunities for those in higher education. Lots of brainstorming went on during this meeting and will continue on until the next meeting in September.

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