Monday, November 29, 2010

Kids Eat Right: New resource from ADA and the ADA Foundation

The American Dietetic Association (ADA) and the ADA Foundation have launched a new initiative, Kids Eat Right. The new website is packed with easy-to-use content - tips, recipes, and videos - all created by Registered Dietitians (RDs), including some by yours truly!

With three sections focused on how to Shop Smart, Cook Healthy, and Eat Right, Kids Eat Right offers a wealth of information for families with children from infancy to adolescence. I am particularly pleased that ADA/ADAF have chosen to focus on the nutrition that children are missing rather than on overweight and foods that should be eliminated. This positive approach is important to promote smart food choices for all children, not only those in a certain weight category. The site promises new tips and recipes every Monday - so you can sign up to receive the updates in a variety of ways.

Stay tuned for more on Kids Eat Right - and other efforts to shift the current conversation on childhood obesity in more positive and effective directions.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Some New (and FREE) Resources for Schools

Over the past year, I have had the pleasure of working on many school-related resources. Two of these have recently become available online - and can be freely downloaded for use by schools and others.

The Whole Grain In-Service Toolkit for Schools, from General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition, was designed for school directors and managers to easily train their staff on a variety of topics related to whole grains. The kit provides everything a school nutrition program needs to effortlessly provide 1-hour of training on whole grains, including a set of PowerPoint slides, a whole grain menu activity, and a quiz (for 1 Continuing Education Unit approved by the School Nutrition Association). I was privileged to write the content for this kit; the folks at General Mills used great graphics and wonderful photos made everything look beautiful!

I was also honored to serve as content advisor for a new position paper on Comprehensive Nutrition Services from the American Dietetic Association, the School Nutrition Association, and the Society for Nutrition Education. The joint ADA/SNA/SNE position paper was written by registered dietitians Marilyn Briggs, co-director of the Center for Nutrition in Schools at University of California – Davis (ADA); Constance G. Mueller, retired from the Bloomington (Ill.) Public Schools District 87 (SNA); and Sheila Fleischhacker, nutrition postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina (SNE).The authors write: “Maintaining a long tradition of working together, ADA, SNA and SNE will continue to advocate for positive actions to improve students’ nutritional status, health and academic performance. Additional professional organizations, advocacy groups and stakeholders, with shared issues and values, are encouraged to join in supporting practices and research increasing the effectiveness of comprehensive school nutrition services.” Download a copy for your files - it offers great background and extensive references to support school nutrition services in your local district.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gratitude for my Montana Roots and Sprouts and More

The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest. William Blake

In this time of thanksgiving, I am ever grateful for having roots firmly planted in Montana, personally and professionally. Personally, it has been an incredible place to raise adventuresome children and to spend time wandering the mountains and plains.

Professionally, my Montana friends and colleagues have made it possible for me to be a 'frontier' dietitian. Like our famous big skies, their open minds and "give it a whirl" attitudes have allowed me to sprout and grow positive, inclusive, comprehensive approaches to nutrition and well-being. With solid good humor, they have often allowed me to be a Rebellious, as well as Registered, dietitian.

A recent comment on a blog, by a Georgia colleague, Chris Rosenbloom, keeps running through my head ... "
it was a nice reminder that food is more than the sum of its nutrients." I sincerely appreciate all those who work together on our Eat Right Montana's Healthy Families Newsletters - 12 years and going strong - where nutrition has always been about more than nutrients and numbers: It is about food, flavor, friends, and families cooking and eating together. And physical activity is about more than heart rate and risk reduction: It is about fun ways to see Montana in all its outdoor wonder and about families playing and working together.

Thank you for all your support and friendship.

No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise ... acknowledge this help with gratitude. Alfred North Whitehead

Saturday, November 20, 2010

'Tis a gift to be simple ...

“Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship. It is of great importance to the morale.” Elsa Schiaparelli, Shocking Life, 1954

In terms of food, the important things are the simple things: meals prepared for loved ones; nurturing food given generously; homegrown produce eaten in the garden; and bread, the staff of life, broken together. In the words of the wise dietitian, Ellyn Satter: “Eating is about regard for ourselves, our connection with our bodies, and our commitment to life itself.” Secret of Feeding a Healthy Family, Kelcy Press, 1999

As the holiday season gets ready to kick into high gear, my nutrition thoughts are not so much about what to eat, but about how to eat. Since the beginning of human culture, eating together has been important to families and communities – and the rituals that bind us together. This is as true for a weekday family dinner as well holiday meals like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Passover, shared meals like church potlucks and office parties, celebratory meals like birthdays and anniversaries.

Sadly, in our fast food culture, everyday meals have too often been seen as something to get through quickly – so that we can get on to something more important. And holiday meals have become a double-edged sword – over-indulgence in way more rich food than anyone needs combined with nagging guilt about our thighs, waistlines, and cholesterol levels.

In any season, cooking and eating together are among the simple things that can being us comfort and joy. The connections we seek - nourishment, health, communication, and family bonds - are as close as our kitchens and dining rooms. Here are some very simple gifts that you can give your family - throughout the holidays and every day of the year.

Cook together. Preparing food is a loving way to share time and bring generations together. Measuring, stirring, and chopping can be as comforting as other routine, everyday tasks. Kneading bread can be downright therapeutic.

Eat together. Make family meals a real priority as often as you can. If you live alone, reach out to family, friends, or co-workers – and break bread together. Eat together at home, eat together at restaurants, eat together at work, eat together at a picnic.

Turn off the television. In our 24/7, panic-button news cycle, television makes it virtually impossible to eat well. The repetitive images of disasters, war, and political bickering can literally make us sick to our stomachs. Take a break from the news and focus on the tastes, smells, and textures of food.

Return to rituals. Families have many rituals for meals – prayers, a moment of silence, joining of hands, candles, or festive touches, like flowers and special dishes. Making rituals part of everyday meals ties us to the past and to hope for the future.

Take time to share. Slow down and share – food, fellowship, memories, tears, laughter, and the joy of time together. Even small children can learn to share in conversations at the table. Give everyone time to share what is important to them.

Invite others to join you for a meal. A sense of community contributes to everyday well-being and to longevity. By joining with others around the table, you can begin to take comfort from the nourishing food and loving companionship.

Monday, November 15, 2010

PASS Child Nutrition Reauthorization NOW!

If you care about kids, you need to ask the lame duck Congress (now back in DC for a short session) to pass Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR).

The next step is in the House and the message to your Representative is simple:

In less than 5 minutes, you can speak up for Child Nutrition Programs, including School Meals, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and WIC. Here are a few sites that will make it even easy for you.

If you are a member of the American Dietetic Association:
  • Log into the member website with your name and password.
  • Then go to the Grassroots Manger.
  • Follow instructions to send a message to your representative.
If you are a member of the School Nutrition Association:
  • Log into the member website with your name and password.
  • Click on Legislative Action on the main toolbar.
  • Click on Take Action on the bottom right of the page.
If you want to know more about CNR, SNAP, and hunger in America:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Raising Veggie Lovers for Life

A recent report - the 2010 State of the Plate by the Produce for Better Health Foundation reveals why focusing on fruit and veggies snacks is as important today as it was when we created our FIT KIDS = HAPPY KIDS poster in 2004.
Most Americans consume anywhere from 30% to 80% of their recommended number of vegetables in a typical day. Only 6.4% of the population achieves their target for vegetable consumption in an average day. Only 8% of children, 7% of adult males, and 5% of adult females achieve their targeted goals.

The picture is less favorable for fruit. Two out of 10 individuals don’t consume even 10% of their recommended amount; two thirds don’t even consume 50% of their target. Just 7.6% achieve their fruit target in a typical day. Of note, children are most likely to achieve their recommended amount of fruit: 12% do so compared with only 7% of adult females and 5% of adult males. Keep in mind, however, that the consumption targets are lower for younger children.

So how can we raise kids who love to eat their veggies (and fruit). I believe that it is possible (even easy) to raise kids who enjoy eating a wide variety of vegetables. The secret is to never bribe or threaten them about eating green or orange things. I suggest to parents and other caretakers that they follow as many of these simple steps as possible:

Enjoy a variety of vegetables yourself. The most important thing that parents, grandparents, and other caregivers can do for children’s eating is to model healthy habits. If you enjoy eating a wide variety of foods, including vegetables, children will see it as the normal thing to do. There’s no need to make a big deal about your enjoyment, just make vegetables a tasty part of every meal.

Grow a small (or large) vegetable garden. Savvy adults know that the taste of freshly picked vegetables can’t be beat. Kids love to pick and eat almost anything that they have ‘grown themselves.’ Deliciously fresh vegetables can come from a container on the porch, a backyard plot, or your local community garden. Bottom line: If they help you grow it, they will eat it.

Cut vegetables up for meals and snacks. Children usually prefer the taste and texture of raw vegetables over cooked ones. Make a small plate of bite-sized veggies (broccoli trees, baby carrots, celery sticks, cucumbers slices, sweet pepper pieces, or sugar snap pea pods) a standard offering at every meal. Add some low fat Ranch dip and kids will naturally get into a crunchy, healthy habit.

Serve bright, colorful vegetables. Everyone eats with their eyes first. When vegetables are bright and colorful, they are naturally more appealing to children and adults alike. Overcooked, mushy veggies are likely to turn everyone off. When cooking vegetables, keep them brightly colored (and crunchy in texture) by steaming or microwaving for just a few minutes.

Be adventurous with vegetables. When children see veggies as tasty and fun, they are much more likely to enjoy eating them. Buying new items, trying new recipes, and playing games are easy ways to make nutrition fun for children. Need ideas for making vegetables more adventurous in your kitchen? Visit for recipes, games, coloring sheets, and more!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Nutrient-Rich Ways to Make Meaningful Food Donations

Most food banks/pantries prefer cash donations, so that they can maximize their purchase of most-needed items. When you do donate food, focus on the nutrient-rich options listed below. Most locations will refuse perishable items, homemade products, unlabeled cans, home canned foods, and any open packages.

Donate protein foods.
These more expensive items are usually very welcome donations for hungry families. Options include canned tuna, salmon, and chicken. Canned meals - such as beef stew, chili, or hearty soups - are also good choices. Other shelf stable proteins include nuts, sunflower seeds, and peanut butter, as well as canned beans, peas, and lentils.

Donate shelf-stable dairy foods.
Dairy foods are important for families, especially growing children. Cash donations to food banks can help to purchase low-fat fluid milk, cheese, and yogurt. You can also make direct donations of shelf-stable products, including dehydrated milk powder instant breakfast, and evaporated canned milk.

Donate whole grain foods.
Grain staples are important foods for every family. Maximize the nutritional value of your food donations by choosing whole grain options whenever possible. Meaningful options include whole grain pastas, quick cooking brown rice, and breakfast cereals that are lower in sugar and higher in fiber (ex. oatmeal, Cheerios®, and Chex®).

Donate canned/dried fruits and 100% juices.
Fruit and 100% juice are good sources of vitamin C (and sometimes vitamin A), as well as potassium. Excellent shelf-staple options include fruits canned in juice (pineapple, peaches, apricots, etc.), as well as applesauce and dried fruit (without added sugar, if possible). Purchase 100% fruit juice or juice mixtures in cans, boxes, or plastic bottles.

Donate canned vegetables and 100% juice.
Reduced-sodium veggies are also important sources of vitamins, potassium, and fiber, while veggie juice can be an excellent source of vitamins A and C. Tomato products - such as tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, prepared spaghetti sauce, and 100% tomato juice - are especially nutritious and versatile items to donate.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Remembering Hunger in the Midst of Abundance

When we have enough to eat - and are able to enjoy the cornucopia of fall produce, it is easy to forgot those who do not have enough to feel secure in what their next meal will be. It is also confusing for many people that food insecurity and obesity are highest among the same populations in our country.

Here is the the column that I wrote for today's Billings Gazette about this topic. While the agencies names and numbers wil be different for your community, the issues - sadly - exist everywhere in America.

Addressing Holiday Food Insecurity for Our Montana Neighbors

Ah November in Montana! As the holiday season begins to shift into high gear, families across the Treasure State begin to dream of gifts, celebrations, and festive meals. However, many of our friends and neighbors will need our help to meet their basic needs, as well as our donations to bring holiday cheer to the table.

Lost jobs and low wages in Montana have seriously impacted many families’ ability to nourish their children. Local agencies, including St. Vincent DePaul; Salvation Army; Family Services, Inc.; Billings Food Bank and the Billings Public Schools BackPack Program, face on-going challenges in coordinating services to address hunger among children.

“Hunger is a serious concern for many of our neighbors throughout the year,” says Minkie Medora, RD (registered dietitian) and chairwoman of the Montana Food Security Council. “We are especially concerned about increases in hunger among our most vulnerable citizens. More than 1 in 3 children are chronically at risk of hunger and food insecurity, which is over 92,000 children across the state. The Montana Food Bank Network has seen a dramatic increase in children needing emergency food from 2009 through 2010.”

Children who are hungry struggle with school and are at greater risk for academic problems. Since hungry children have difficulty concentrating, they often do poorly in the classroom and fail to advance from grade to grade. This affects their prospects of completing school or going to college, which in turn affects their earning power as adults. Being hungry or food insecure can lead to a cascade of negative outcomes – academically as well as socially. That’s why the Office of Public Instruction and Food Security Council sponsored a Montana Summit to End Childhood Hunger in September 2010.

“At the summit, we discussed long-term solutions to hunger in Montana and dispelled some myths about hunger,” explains Medora. “There is a common misperception that if adults or children are overweight, they are not poor or hungry.” In fact, poor families eat when there is money to buy food, and do without when money runs out. This results in feast or famine eating, as well as choosing low-cost food that tends to be high in calories but low in nutrients. When families are not able to have healthful, nutrient-rich food throughout the month, they make do with what is available, leading to under-nutrition.

We can all help address food security, during the holidays and all year long. According to Medora, here are three effective ways to fight hunger and feed hope in your local community:

  • Donate cash: Food pantries and banks, like those in the Montana Food Bank Network (MFBN), are able to get their money’s worth from monetary donations. By buying in bulk and working with food brokers for deep discounts, MFBN can buy food for 8 meals with every $1.00 donation.
  • Donate nutrient-rich foods: If you prefer to donate food, buy needed or requested items rather than using unwanted packages from your kitchen cupboard. Useful donations include ready-to-eat protein foods (peanut butter and canned tuna or chicken), as well as chili, stews, hearty soups, and fruit canned in juice.
  • Support long-term solutions: Across Montana, local groups are getting together to explore new solutions for food security, including community gardens, improved access to affordable food, and more collaboration among hunger agencies. Check with your MSU Extension office to find a group in your city or town.